Wind power a contender in North Africa

23 April 2015

Latest bid prices put onshore wind in Egypt on par with gas generation

  • Bids received for 250MW Gulf of Suez wind farm in Egypt
  • Prices represent roughly half the average levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for onshore wind in Africa in 2014
  • Gulf of Suez has some of the best wind resources in the world

Bid prices for the 250MW build, own, operate Gulf of Suez wind farm in Egypt range from $0.04068 a kilowatt hour (kWh), from a GDF Suez-led consortium, to $0.049855 a kWh, from the consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power.

This represents roughly half the average levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for onshore wind in Africa in 2014, which was $0.09 a kWh, according to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

“In Africa, where there is a stable and financially secure offtake partner for PPAs [power purchase agreements] and good wind resources, onshore wind can provide some of the cheapest new power generation options,” says Michael Taylor, senior analyst for renewable energy cost status and outlook at Irena. “Although PPA differences make it difficult to directly compare projects in different African countries, the Egypt project is one of the lowest cost offers we have seen made in a tender in Africa and compares favourably with the [latest project awarded] for onshore wind in South Africa.”

The LCOE for conventional generation ranged between $0.045 a kWh and $0.14 a kWh in 2014, depending on the type of plant and fuel costs, according to Irena.

This will give a massive boost to wind schemes in North Africa, which had been eclipsed by activity in the solar market.

The competitive bids are due to the excellent wind resources along the Gulf of Suez in eastern Egypt. According to Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority, wind speeds at 50 metres above ground level, roughly where the turbine’s blades spin, average 10.5 metres a second.

“We’re delighted to be the low bidder as the Gulf of Suez is one of the best sites in the world for wind as the wind speeds are high and steady,” says Jean Rappe, executive vice-president of business development for France’s GDF Suez in the Middle East. “The capacity factor is as high as 60 per cent.”

The Gulf of Suez, along with the Atlantic coast of Morocco, has some of the best wind resources in the world and unusually high capacity factors, meaning turbines produce at full capacity at a high proportion of the day.

But evaluation of technical bids could lead to adjustments in the commercial bids. Factors such as the placement and height of wind turbines must be carefully calculated.

“The excellent site, the low interest rate for financing and advances in wind technologies have all contributed to these low tariffs,” says a developer. “But the technical requirements for wind are very complex and evaluation will be to a high standard.”

There will now be market anticipation surrounding the offers on five Moroccan wind farms. The build, own, operate, transfer projects have a combined capacity of 850MW. GDF Suez submitted a technical bid, along with Spain’s Acciona, Acwa Power, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) and France’s EDF. A deadline for commercial bids has not yet been set.

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