The Government is intensifying efforts to harness wind power for the generation of electricity as part of its efforts to promote the use of environmentally friendly energy technologies.
According to Mr Tobias Mudzingwa, engineer for renewable energies at the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera), preliminary wind mapping studies to identify areas suitable for wind energy power generation have been undertaken throughout the country.
Gweru, Zvishavane, Chivhu, Bulawayo, Masvingo and the Eastern Highlands, are some of the areas identified with potential for wind energy power generation.
“Wind energy is a very sustainable energy source which can be harnessed to produce electricity that is fed into the national grid or for off-grid applications,” said Mr Mudzingwa.
This comes at a time when authorities are battling to address the growing power deficit in the country which poses a major threat to economic recovery.
Primarily, the renewable sector in Zimbabwe consists of solar, hydro, wind and biomass which includes biogas (sugarcane-based), sawmill waste, biogas and forestry waste.
“At the moment, we don’t have utility scale wind projects but we hope to have them once we’re done with the wind energy resource assessment which we shall be initiating this year. This exercise will produce bankable data which can be made available to potential investors,” said Mr Mudzingwa.
Given the challenges in the local energy sector, investing in renewable energy projects is key to improving access in a country where 83 percent of rural people are not connected to electricity.
Government announced a series of tax exemptions, licence fee cuts and a raft of financing measures to drive the renewable energy development.
The Ministry of Energy and Power Development’s Draft National Renewable Energy Policy, indicates that wind energy has potential while biogas could produce about 150MW
“The potential is there. We have abundant sunshine with over 3 000 hours per year. We also have green fuel, ethanol. So there’s huge potential to exploit in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, an Environment Africa project officer.
Meanwhile, Sadc is racing against time to install new energy projects needed to generate 35 000MW in order to avoid a power deficit by 2022.
Sadc has 58 000MW installed generation capacity but at the moment the region is only producing 47 000 MW. The region’s demand currently stands at about 53 000MW which means there is a supply deficit of 6 000MW.
Sadc has been operating with a generation supply deficit for over 10 years now. Most of the countries in the bloc rely on hydropower. The danger with relying on hydropower in southern Africa is that the region is prone to droughts. This affects the generation capacity when droughts occur.
For example, until recently, Zambia relied on 99 percent hydropower. About 80 percent of Namibia’s internally produced power is from the Ruacana hydropower station. Zimbabwe also relies heavily on power from the Kariba dam project.
With the region experiencing frequent droughts and failure to invest in many renewable energy projects, this deficit is projected to increase every year.
As the industrial productivity steadily increases, the World Bank also anticipates the demand for electricity in the region to increase by 40 percent over the next 10 years.
It was because of this that the ministers responsible for energy in the region took a common decision to initiate development of new power generation projects in the region that would bring about 35 000MW by 2022.
The southern African region had initially pinned its hopes on the 44 000MW Grand Inga hydropower dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo but delays caused by lack of financing means the project will not be producing power by 2020 but rather as from 2024.
The World Bank also suspended its funding after the presidency in that country took control of the project.
Some of the projects that are now earmarked for 2022 include the 800MW Kudu gas to power station in Namibia at a cost of $1.2 billion. Another project is the Batoka Gorge project worth $4 billion by Zambia and Zimbabwe, which is estimated to produce 2 400MW.
The expansion of the Hwange Power Station’s units seven and eight in Zimbabwe is expected to add a combined 600MW. The 300MW Kariba South expansion in Zimbabwe at a cost $508 million is 80 percent complete and the first unit is expected to release power into the national grid by the end of the year.
Other projects have also been mooted but are yet to get off the ground. The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is banking on new members to join so that they can add more power to the regional grid. The SAPP is looking at adding Angola, Malawi and Tanzania because the latter has so much energy potential.
Tanzania is on a drive to end power shortages with many new plants earmarked to be gas-fired. Last year, Tanzania initiated a $1.33 billion project to pipe natural gas to its capital, Dar es Salaam.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Energy and Power Development, Dr Samuel Undenge, acknowledged that several projects in the region have been identified with the aim of producing over 30 000 MW by 2022 but said the region has been slow in commissioning new projects.
Dr Undenge said that the establishment of the Sadc Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (Sacree) in Namibia in 2016 was testimony that the region was serious about ending the power deficit. He said he hoped that this centre would help speed up the process of commissioning these projects.