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Tanzania: 50 MW commercial wind farm in Singida region

A group of villagers gather at the local bicycle repair shop at Njiapanda, a dusty roadside hamlet on the rift valley in Singida region in central Tanzania, to marvel at magazine pictures of massive electricity-generating wind turbines.
They have never seen anything like this before and are clearly impressed.

They will soon find out exactly what the turbines are like. In a matter of months, 24 of these 100m-plus-high power generators will be erected next to their homes, as part of the first commercial wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is one of the poorest parts of Tanzania. There is little agriculture, no industry, but one thing there is plenty of is wind.

It is an untapped resource, but one which could hold the key to providing much-needed electricity to central and northern Tanzania and kick-starting the development of the region.

The 24 turbines, which should be in operation within 18 months, will generate 50 megawatts (MW) of power, almost 10% of Tanzania's current power needs.

The company behind the $113m project is Wind East Africa. "It's important that Tanzania diversifies its power sources," says project manager Mike Case.

"The country is very reliant on hydro-electric power, which means in times of drought, there is a power deficit. Oil-generated power is very expensive, so wind power offers a cheaper and more reliable alternative."

The wind farm will benefit the local economy, providing jobs during the construction phase and a handful of jobs when it is up and running.

According to wind expert Dr Ladislaus Lwambuka, from the University of Dar es Salaam, Africa is now ready for wind power on a commercial scale.

"If the Wind East Africa project is a success, then it could lead to more wind farms, not just in Tanzania but in the rest of Africa, particularly along the rift valley, where we know the winds are strong."

There are already plans, if the first phase of the project goes well, to double the number of wind turbines and increase Wind East Africa's output to up to 100 MW.

Additional information: Read the full story at BBC news
News date: 21/04/2008

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