Senegal launches first large-scale wind farm in West Africa

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Senegal has inaugurated the first large-scale wind farm in West Africa, a facility that will supply nearly a sixth of the country’s power needs when it reaches full capacity later this year. With the wind farm, Senegal will get 30% of its energy from clean sources, in a push to cut its dependence on fossil fuels.

The 158MW wind farm

The 158MW wind farm was built by British renewable power company Lekela, which also has wind farms in South Africa and Egypt and an upcoming one in Ghana. “The energy mix we have today allows us to move past our dependence on petrol,” said Papa Mademba Biteye, director-general of Senelec, the national electricity company.

Wind farms remain scarce throughout sub-Saharan Africa compared with solar plants, partly because they can cost more and take longer to build and because strong wind is generally less plentiful than sunshine, said Silvia Macri, an energy analyst at IHS Markit.

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Renewable energy in Senegal

Senegal’s first solar plant came on board three years ago, and the country has since built several more. Other countries in the region are following suit with solar but are much further behind in terms of wind. In Taiba N’Diaye, 46 giant wind turbines rise over scrubland about 90km from the seaside capital. One-third are operating, and the rest are due to come online by June. Outside the cities, much of Senegal is still not electrified.

Electricity reached only about 60% of the 16 million population in 2017, according to the World Bank. The wind farm will provide enough electricity for 2 million people and prevent the emission of 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, according to Senelec. Mr. Biteye further noted that the next challenge was universal access.