Potential for Ethiopia to Produce and Export Renewable Energy

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By Harry Valentine, Commentator/Energy Researcher:-

Several years ago the European group called Desertec developed a strategy to generate renewable energy resources across the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA) and export the electric power into Europe. The range of technologies included wind, solar-PV, solar-thermal, hydroelectric, geothermal, ocean wave, ocean tidal currents and biomass sources. The original Desertec plans focused on developing the renewable energy potential of MENA nations located to the north of 15°N, until the South African Eskom Group initiated discussions about beginning development of the hydroelectric power generation potential of Inga Falls on the Congo River. Peak demand for electric power occurs between May and September across Europe, the MENA and South Africa due to electrical heating of buildings during the southern winter.

The South African plans called for HVDC power lines radiating south across Africa to South Africa, northwest through Algeria and Morocco and across the Spain as well as northeast toward Egypt. Then the Congolese government chose to reconsider the prospect of developing a hydroelectric project estimated at average of 40,000MW to 45,000MW output with peak output pf 100,000MW between October and March. While Congo reconsiders their options and Eskom considers the potential for new hydroelectric development on the Zambezi River (peak output between October to March), Ethiopia announced that they might have some 45,000MW possible generating capacity that includes 30,000MW of hydroelectric power between May and September, wind (10,000MW) and geothermal (5,000MW) sources.


Ethiopia’s Power Potential:

Some of the tributaries of the headwaters of the Nile River flow through deep valleys located in the Ethiopian Highlands. The width and depth of these valleys allow for the construction of large reservoirs that could store water for hydroelectric power dams. There are also several suitable mountain valleys in the southern Highlands that could also allow for the development of large storage reservoirs that would supply hydroelectric power dams.

Prevailing winds blow across the Ethiopian Highlands in a southwesterly direction during the cool, dry season and in a northern/northwesterly direction during the hot, humid and rainy season. Humid summer winds blow through mountain valleys at substantial velocity, where it may be possible to install wind turbines on high towers that are stabilized from the valley walls. It may also be possible to suspend arrays of transverse-axis wind turbines on cable systems across suitable valleys.

There is potential for geothermal energy in eastern Ethiopia and Eritrea. While it is possible to drive steam turbines using hot geothermal steam, there may be scope to superheat the steam using concentrated solar thermal energy. Geothermal energy from large geothermal wells at some 80°C to 140°C may be used to energize air-based chimney engines and vortex engines rated at 50MW to 300MW. During humid summer weather, the operation of these engines would propel humid air upward into the cooler regions found at higher elevation, where the moisture droplets may coalesce into rain droplets.

Ethiopia’s Dilemma:

Ethiopia has in recent years been involved in a military skirmish with their neighbor to the southeast, Somalia as well as with their neighbor to the northeast, the now nominally independent Eritrea. Egypt has warned about hydroelectric power dams upstream along the Nile River in the event that such development reduces the volume of water that Egypt receives. Dams and reservoirs built with a large water surface area have a propensity for increased evaporation and seepage into aquifers that can reduce water flow volumes downstream.

Sudan and Ethiopia need to ensure that Egypt receives enough water should either nation develop additional hydroelectric generating capacity. Ethiopia would need to develop mutually cordial and cooperative diplomatic relations with neighboring states in order to peacefully and productively develop their renewable energy resources.

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