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Cape Verde celebrates milestone in Africa’s largest wind power project

Cape Verde celebrates milestone in Africa’s largest wind power project


The largest wind power project in Africa is operational. The first wind power stations in the Cape Verde islands were inaugurated in October. Finnfund is one of the two main shareholders in the project.

The windswept islands of Cape Verde lie off West Africa, some 500 km from Senegal. They are the site of Africa’s largest wind power project, which started up in autumn 2011. Generating equipment on four of the islands will produce a greater proportion of electricity from wind than anywhere else in the world.

Cabeolica1.jpgThe largest wind farm contains 11 turbines and was inaugurated outside the capital, Praia, on 20 October. Participating in the ceremony were the prime minister Dr. José Maria Neves, the minister of industry and energy Dr Humberto Brito, the project partners and other guests.

Speeches at the event emphasised the importance to Cape Verde of inexpensive energy that creates no emissions. While increasing numbers of tourists have discovered the islands in the past few decades, as many as half of the residents have moved abroad, mostly to the United States and Europe, in search of jobs and a better future. The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for the population exodus.

Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The project has been commissioned by Cabeólica S.A., led by a Finnish energy expert Herkko Lehdonvirta. Its shareholders are the Nigerian-based Africa Finance Corporation, Finnfund and Infraco, a consortium for African infrastructure development. Infraco was established by the World Bank and five European countries – Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Other Cabeólica shareholders are Cape Verde’s power and water company Electra and its government. Finance for the project is in the form of loans, 30 million euros from the European Investment Bank and 15 million euros from the African Development Bank.

Strong winds hinder construction

The total cost of the project will be about 60 million euros. Construction began in winter 2011 on the islands of Santiago and São Vicente. New roads were built and then foundations laid. The first masts and turbines went up in the summer.Cabeolica8.jpg

“Conditions on the windy islands have been a challenge,” says Finnfund senior investment manager Helena Teppana. “One of the most difficult things was to unload heavy equipment in the ports, where the sea is often rough.”

Despite the challenges the technical side of the project has advanced well and the first turbines began to produce electricity in September. Teppana predicts that all will be ready on schedule by the end of the year.

The project consists of a total of 30 wind turbines with a combined output of 25.5 MW. They are located on four islands, Sal and Boa Vista as well as Santiago and São Vicente. The former two are familiar to holidaymakers.

Construction work is being carried out on a turnkey principle by Vestas, the Danish wind power specialist. Vestas has also contracted to provide long-term upkeep and maintenance of the equipment.

Long-awaited project

The opening ceremony was closely followed in Cape Verde because the wind power project has been under preparation for more than a decade. Until now, financing problems have led to its postponement.

Cabeolica5.jpgCabeólica will sell the electricity it produces to the national power grid. When all its wind farms are in operation they will generate about a quarter of the nation’s electrical supply.

The rest of the islands’ generating capacity is based on diesel engines. The project will give four islands a hybrid wind-diesel power system.

”The large proportion of wind power makes management difficult. Together with our customer Electra, we are now concentrating on optimising the power supply so that the grid remains stable while obtaining the maximum benefit from the wind farms,” says Cabeólica’s managing director Herkko Lehdonvirta.

Using renewable energy in place of diesel will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

New wind power under planning

The winds that blow across the Atlantic Ocean give Cape Verde a location for wind power that is exceptionally good by international standards. Cabeólica’s success will probably accelerate the government’s plans for boosting its wind power capacity in the future. It aims to raise the proportion of energy produced from renewables to 50% by 2020.

“Cape Verde is well placed to increase the utilisation of wind power in the years ahead and Cabeólica wants to be part of it. Reports on the most suitable areas have already been ordered from foreign consultants,” Teppana notes.

The wind farm project has been widely publicised throughout Africa because the project is unique in many respects. It is the first large-scale wind power project in the continent. Moreover, renewable energy is seen as a solution to the serious problems in energyCabeolica4.jpg generation faced by countries in other continents, too.


For more details, please contact Ms Helena Teppana tel. +358 9 3484 3304, +358 40 822 8296,