Making Wind for Prosperity a reality

In a special update for Recharge 4040, Vestas' Morten Albæk describes how Wind for Prosperity is making progress in Kenya, Jordan and other emerging markets

"We’re working hard on finalising the negotiations with the Kenyan authorities towards the installation of the first Wind for Prosperity turbines, while also assessing new markets in which to deploy Wind for Prosperity.

I think any company that is entering frontier markets should expect difficulties and setbacks, and our journey so far has been no different. Like any venture into unknown territory, entering frontier markets requires thorough preparation, above all else.

When trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, it is inevitable that you run into challenges and delays. As an example, infrastructure in the remote communities has needed more work than expected and we have found out that transporting a 60-metre tower to remote locations — where roads are humble in some places and in others the tarmac roads, bridges, etc, are in significant disrepair — is no easy task.

There have been multiple visits to the Kenyan sites — as well as potential sites in other countries — by our technical experts and we have made additional examinations of wind conditions, demand studies as well as feasibility studies, and site-specific project development. We also have a good and constructive dialogue with our key partners, including Kenya Power and other involved government agencies, to ensure that all requirements are being addressed sufficiently.

The overall objective is to bring affordable, reliable and clean electricity to rural populations that have no access to the national grid. This will be achieved by installing a hybrid solution of proven wind technology and advanced diesel power generation. We strive to have the first installation in place in the first half of 2015.

The first Wind for Prosperity projects are expected to centre on up to 13 off-grid stations in Kenya that are home to more than 200,000 people. The projects can supply electricity considerably below the current cost of diesel generation; and when fully implemented, will reduce diesel use by more than 2,000 tons per year.

The Kenyan pilot projects are being jointly developed by Vestas, the pan-African renewable-energy project investor Frontier Investment Management and a local development partner. This group is working closely with the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, Kenya Power and government agencies to prepare the first installations.

Vestas and Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable-energy company, have agreed to work together on a number of projects in the coming year and to formalise the growing collaboration over time. Other Wind for Prosperity partners include Econet Wireless and the Carbon War Room. Additional opportunities are being explored in countries such as Indonesia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Yemen, Pakistan, Vietnam and Nicaragua.

Wind for Prosperity is registered under the UN’s “Sustainable Energy for All” call to action and is in that regard a tangible and scaleable example of how clean, reliable electricity can become available to all.

The key milestones for the pilot in Kenya are financial close, finalisation of technical design, and not least project installation and commissioning.

As part of the Wind for Prosperity programme, Vestas and EP Global Energy signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in March on bringing wind-energy solutions to remote communities in the Middle East.

With this agreement, Jordan is set to become the first country in the Middle East and the second country globally to host a Wind for Prosperity project. Facing severe energy challenges owing to rising local consumption and limited domestic fossil-fuel resources, Jordan and its energy consumers will benefit from increasing the supply of reliable, affordable and locally produced electricity.

Under the MoU, Vestas and EP will collaborate to deploy wind solutions to improve access to electricity for communities that currently have no or only limited energy infrastructure.

This agreement is an important milestone — for Wind for Prosperity, the Middle East region and especially for Jordan. The partnership with EP is a gratifying example of complementary strengths advancing shared goals. Partnering EP will allow Wind for Prosperity to scale up and travel to new countries to the benefit of those living in energy poverty.

Wind for Prosperity and water scarcity

Wind for Prosperity emerged from the simple, yet novel idea to combine global wind data with the UN’s Human Development Index — which told us that 50 million people living in poverty also live in areas with an abundance of wind.

Water stress and scarcity is a growing concern in numerous areas across the globe, but bringing electricity to communities living in energy poverty is getting increasingly difficult simultaneously, as most energy sources require a lot of water.

Wind for Prosperity has created a one-of-a-kind overlay between global water scarcity and wind resources, which highlights areas across the globe with high water stress and high average wind speeds.

This shows that wind energy is not only relevant in developed countries, but also that wind energy — and Wind for Prosperity in particular — can bring electricity to areas where other sorts of power aren’t possible, due to water scarcity or an unsustainable business model.

Since we did the first overlay of wind and poverty data, the focus on global water scarcity has increased and the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “Approximately 80% of the world’s population already suffers serious threats to its water security, as measured by indicators including water availability, water demand and pollution.”

Some 1.3 billion people face energy poverty and 1.2 billion live in water scarcity, with another 500 million approaching this situation. Wind for Prosperity can bring electricity to new communities without stressing water supply further, but if we continue to wait, climate change will only make the challenge more difficult."

Morten Albæk is Vestas' group senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, and a Recharge4040 new energy pioneer.

Recharge4040 brings together the world's young new-energy pioneers from the worlds of renewables technology, finance, development, social engagement and advocacy. The list includes people from major wind and solar companies, banks, investment funds, crowd-funding platforms and governments. For the full list of nominees and news about the initiative, visit the 4040 website