NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Wind Power Feasible for Developing Countries?

August 27, 2002

Poor developing countries suffer from a desperate lack of electricity in rural areas. Now, after decades of experimentation in wealthy countries, studies show wind power may be ready to come to the rescue.

  • While there are more than 27,000 megawatts of wind turbines installed worldwide, sub-Saharan Africa had just three megawatts installed as of the end of last year.
  • But the European Wind Energy Agency predicts Africa will have some 25,000 megawatts from wind by 2020.
  • Wind power is often well-suited to small-scale operations in rural areas and has lower operating and maintenance costs than traditional generators.
  • Wind power advocates in industrialized countries have depended on government assistance to achieve their goals, and while African countries don't have that luxury they can piggy-back on technological advancements achieved in industrialized countries.

Newly independent Eritrea conducted studies in 1997 that suggested the country could replace expensive imported diesel fuel with nothing but wind power. Farmers in Ethiopia and South Africa use small windmills to pump water. Namibia, faced with chronic power shortages, drafted a renewable energy plan three years ago to step up wind power development.

Governments in Brazil and India have also announced new projects for major wind farms across both countries. India, for example, has installed some 1,600 megawatts of wind turbines, the equivalent of a good-size nuclear plant. China has 400 megawatts of installed capacity and is aiming for 800 more in four years.

Source: Keith Johnson, "Second Wind for Wind Power," Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2002.


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