French Firm to Work on Wind Power Expansion up North

Vergnet hopes to increase energy generation capacity to up to 40Mw

French power firm Vergnet Group SA is conducting a feasibility study for the extension of the Ashegoda Wind Farm. The farm will have the capacity of generating 10Mw to 40Mw of electric power in Tirgay Regional State.

The feasibility study started in October 2014 and Lodovic Dehondt, Ashegoda project director for the first phase of the project, said the project was expected to be finalised by January 2015.

Ashegoda is one of 11 sites experts identified in Ethiopia for the potential to generate power from wind, with a total size of 20,000Km² coverage. However, Ashegoda, 20Km south of Meqelle, seat of the regional state, is considered to be the windiest place in the country after Adama (Nazareth), 99Kms east of Addis Abeba in Oromia Regional State.

In 2008, the power utility monopoly, under the defunct Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), had signed a deal with the French firm. The project was launched a year later, at a cost of 210 million Euros.

Vergnet was established in 1976 and employs 700 people. In 2013, it had an annual turnover of 57.5 million Euros and operates in 35 countries. The company installed 900 wind turbines in different countries, including in Nigeria, with a generating capacity of 10Mw, and 4.5Mw in Mauritania.

Vergnet installed 30 turbines, each with a capacity of one megawatt. Altsom, another french firm, installed 54 turbines, each with a capacity for 1.67Mw of electric power.

“After the place we reserved for the wind farm was taken over for the construction of a Civil Aviation training facility, we changed the plan and it was then that Alstom entered discussions,” Lodovic told Fortune.

The wind farm project, billed as the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, was finalised and inaugurated in October 2013 by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegne. It has supplied the national grid ever since.

A subsequent agreement has been reached for a study to expand power generation with Alemayehu Tegenu, minister of Water, Irrigation & Energy (MoWIE), and Debretsion Gebremichel, (PhD), minister of Communication and Information Technology with the rank of Deputy Prime Minister, according to Jerome Douat, CEO of Vergnet Group. Debretsion was in Paris two weeks ago, attending a bilateral business delegation between France and Ethiopia.

The agreement was a turnkey contract, also known as Engineering, Procurement and Construction, to be financed with a loan of 210 million Euros from the French Development Agency (AFD), indicating a change in approach of the government of France in providing vendor financing to its companies involved in infrastructural projects abroad.

German-based company Lahmeyer International GmbH has been hired by the government to provide project consultancy services and contract supervision and administration works, sources told Fortune.

A group of experts, including the former project manager of the Ashegoda wind farm, is expected to visit Ethiopia for the feasibility study detail. The project is anticipated to be finalised by the end of 2016 if the procedures work as scheduled.

“We will raise financing from European banks and the AFD,” says Douat.

Ashegoda wind farm is part of the government’s plan, which also includes Adama wind farm, to generate 10,000Mw electric power from water, wind and geothermal sources during the conclusion of its five-year growth plan. From wind sources alone it wants to see 890Mw of electric power generated, including 300Mw from Ayesha, in Somali Regional State, Debre Berhan and Assela, which are set to produce 100Mw each, and Messebo wind farm, with a capacity of 51Mw.

While many of these are still at the drawing board phase, the Adama Wind Farm was completed by Chinese companies, CGCOC Joint Venture and Hydro China, with a 117 million dollar loan of financing from the Export-Import Bank of China. It has a capacity of generating 51Mw electric power.


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