Situating renewable energy sources in Africa

A study illustrates how renewable resources can help meet energy demands in Africa. Previous studies suggest that African countries may need to triple their electricity production by 2030 to meet energy demands. Using a resource mapping approach, Grace Wu and colleagues developed a modeling framework to assess grid-connected solar and wind energy in 21 countries in the Southern African Power Pool and Eastern Africa Power Pool, which include more than 50% of Africa’s population. The study estimates that “no-regrets” sites, which are low-cost, low-impact, and accessible sites, are plentiful but unevenly distributed across countries. A wind-zone model of nine Southern African Power Pool countries compared the costs of different wind farm siting strategies and transmission infrastructure availabilities. The model indicates that energy production is likely to cost less if wind sites are placed in areas where the timing of wind generation matches electricity demand rather than at sites with the greatest wind energy production. Infrastructure siting strategies that prioritize wind generation timing over maximizing wind electricity production are also more likely to evenly distribute wind farms between countries. Additionally, this siting strategy could reduce the need for conventional energy generation by 9.5% in a high-wind scenario, potentially saving 6-20% of costs, depending on the conventional energy technology that is avoided. According to the authors, strategic site selection, planned transmission infrastructure, and international energy trade could make renewable energy in eastern and southern Africa economically and environmentally competitive with dominant conventional electricity generation technologies. - Read at PNAS

Article #16-11845: “Strategic siting and regional grid interconnections key to low-carbon futures in African countries,” by Grace C. Wu et al.