Wind farm fuels Ethiopia's green power ambitions

Dec 11, 2011 by Jenny Vaughan
The French-run Ashegoda wind farm, sub-Saharan Africa's largest, is part of Ethiopia's ambitious strategy to become the region's leading producer of renewable energy.

Villagers in Ethiopia's arid north live as they have for centuries surrounded by cattle and donkeys; only the rows of towering white wind turbines look out of place.

It is not the first place one might expect to find the sleek new structures. The unpaved roads around the site are lined with donkey-drawn carts lugging firewood and bushels of wheat.

"It's a little bit anachronistic to see the turbines in a rural zone where peasants are working like they were centuries ago," says Gerard Damongeot of the French-run Ashegoda farm.

But, he says, it is "very, very windy" making it the perfect location for the turbines.

The path towards green power, however, is strewn with obstacles. The land taken up by the turbines was once used by local farmers.

Around 700 growers have lost either some or all of their land, according to the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) site manager Fisseha Gebremichael.

Local government provided compensation to affected farmers, but some say the payment was inadequate. "We are not happy, we had good income from this land," said farmer Abraha Woldu.

He was given $4000 for his one hectare of land, which he said is not enough to lease another plot of land.

Like many Ethiopians, Abraha feels ambivalent about the wind farm. He welcomes progress, but is disappointed to have lost his main source of income.

"I am happy to develop my country, but I am not happy about the payment I received," he said.

Cattle graze on a maize field in front of wind turbines in Ashegoda, northern Ethiopia. As part of Ethiopia's ambitious $150 billion, 20-year green growth strategy, diesel power stations will be replaced by hydro, solar, geothermal and wind energy by 2015.

The Ashegoda wind farm, sub-Saharan Africa's largest, is part of Ethiopia's ambitious strategy to become the region's leading producer of .

The country is aiming for a seven-fold increase in in the next five years.

Ethiopia's Prime Minster Meles Zenawi, the African Union's special representative on the environment, pushed this month for countries to commit to green policies at UN in Durban, South Africa.

As part of Ethiopia's ambitious $150 billion, 20-year green growth strategy, diesel power stations will be replaced by hydro, solar, geothermal and wind energy by 2015.

It's a bold plan. More than half of all Ethiopians do not have access to electricity and critics say the scale of the plans is unfeasible.

With 30 of 84 wind towers erected since construction began in 2009, the plant expects the first megawatt of electricity to be produced by the end of December.

And while the majority of power produced at Ashegoda and elsewhere will connect to the national grid, it is even hoped to produce surplus, with some 10 percent sold to neighbouring Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan, as well as to Egypt.

Run by France's Vergnet Groupe, Ashegoda is the first of six planned wind farms in the country.

With 30 of 84 wind towers erected since construction began in 2009, the plant expects the first megawatt of electricity to be produced by the end of December.

Damongeot said the decision to work in Ethiopia was a fairly easy one. Corruption is much less of a problem then elsewhere on the continent, and there is a genuine commitment to renewable energy.

And of course, there is an abundance of wind, the result of a varied terrain and access to Red Sea winds from the east, with the company constructing two more plots of turbines by mid-2012.

But the company does not expect to turn a profit from Ashegoda due to escalating costs. The $282 million plan was financed by a loan from several French banks and the French development agency.

"We've lost a lot of money and we don't expect to make any money," Damongeot said, laughing.

But he maintains it is a good opportunity for the company to establish itself in Ethiopia, where they may expand into hydro projects in the future.

For the EEPCO's Fisseha, renewable energy is a key investment for a developing country like Ethiopia. They can avoid the environmental damage seen in Western countries and boost exports at the same time, he said.

"Ethiopia is developing -- and investing in such a way to be environmentally friendly and not make the mistakes of the developing world," he said. "We are trying, we are trying hard," he added.

Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu is optimistic the effort will pay off in a matter of years.

"You'll find that all Ethiopians will have access to electricity -- you'll find every industry has a good supply of green, renewable energy," he said. "And everywhere, of course."

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freethinking
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2011
Green energy, no profit, increases poverty by forcing poor of their property in Ethiopia. Yet people say this is a good thing? How?
How about, building a profitable power plant to produce cheap power, to lift the poor out of poverty. Oh right, cant do that, Save the earth, kill the people.

Merry Christmas.
FrankHerbert
0.9 / 5 (52) Dec 11, 2011
How about, building a profitable power plant to produce cheap power, to lift the poor out of poverty.


How exactly do you make it profitable when there are only dirt poor people around to buy the electricity? Seriously have you even heard of the TVA? That was in the UNITED STATES IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.

So if some Americans were too poor to bootstrap themselves a power plant how do you expect a society of systematically ripped off people to do so? You know they mine all their oil for pennies and practically give it to our multinationals, because well, how they hell are they going to get the money in the first place to even have a reason to need the energy int he first place?

When survival is your primary concern, you are going to work all day pulling that useless black shit out of the ground and sell it to the white man to get food, rather than sitting around thinking up uses for black goop (and gold, diamonds, etc.)
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2011
"Green energy, no profit, increases poverty by forcing poor of their property in Ethiopia." - FreeTard

The cattle grazing under the turbines don't seem to be thrown off the property.

Can you explain that to us FreeTard?

freethinking
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2011
FH, if the company built one or two of these turbines in an area to power local developement then fine great progress. What is happening is that people are being forced of their land to build turbines that then go to rich people at a discount.

There are groups going around the third world providing samll solar pannels to put on houses for poor people. These pannels provide enough power a light or two and a radio. However giving this to poor people creates opportunity.

These turbines, create poverty. Poverty causes destruction of the environement.

Merry Christmas
freethinking
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2011
VD, read the article

"Around 700 growers have lost either some or all of their land, according to the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) site manager Fisseha Gebremichael.

Local government provided compensation to affected farmers, but some say the payment was inadequate. "We are not happy, we had good income from this land," said farmer Abraha Woldu.

He was given $4000 for his one hectare of land, which he said is not enough to lease another plot of land."

The cattle probably are the cattle of the rich corrupt man, like Al Gore, who is getting rich throwing poor farmers off their land.

Merry Christmas even to you VD.
Nanobanano
5 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2011
The cattle probably are the cattle of the rich corrupt man, like Al Gore, who is getting rich throwing poor farmers off their land.


Blame that on the rich, corrupt guy. Don't blame it on the technology.

And yes, that's a rip-off, which is ridiculous IMO.

don't see why they wouldn't offer a better price anyway. The land is actually an insignifant part of the cost of wind turbines, even at fair prices, because the big turbines cost millions of dollars each. But they pay for themselves many times over in their life time.

Why couldn't they just buy the right-of-way land and let the farmers keep most of it? That made no sense at all.
Vendicar_Decarian
2 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2011
"VD, read the article" - FreeTard

Oh I did read the article, and the picture provided and common sense tell me that the complaints about lost land are invalid.

If the cattle grazing in the field don't mind the turbines, I strongly doubt if plants will either.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

For the record I would have proposed that the land be leased from the farmers.

Happy solstice everyone.

freethinking
1 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2011
VD why don't you drop your hatespeech.

I think we can agree that if the turbines provide weath to the individual farmer and actually helps people, then it is a good thing. I DO agree that at times turbines DO make sense. Most of the time, and it looks like here as well, it doesn't.

VD when you become less hateful the world will become a nicer place for you and those around you. Don't give in to the hate that the Occupy Wall Street thugs have.

Merry Christmas

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