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UK cash boosts milestone Tanzania windfarm

Tanzania’s first windfarm is nearing completion thanks to funding via the UK government.

The windfarm in the Mufindi District of the Iringa region has received a $1.2m loan from the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP), which is entirely financed by à‚£148m from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Once operational, the 2.4 MW windfarm will provide electricity to customers of a private rural grid network operated by African project developer Rift Valley Energy Group.

The farm’s three turbines recently arrived at the project site in Mwenga and installation and testing is expected to be completed in early May.

A turbine’s bottom tower section is offloaded from a ship. Credit: Rift Valley Energy

The rural grid network is currently powered by a 4 MW hydropower plant that has been operational since 2012, and is the first private large-scale rural network in Tanzania. The plant provides electricity to more than 4500 homes and businesses across 32 villages, including energy-intensive end users such as tea-processing companies and sawmills, as well as the region’s rapidly growing SME sector. Any surplus power is sold to utility TANESCO under a power purchase agreement.

The new windfarm will enable the planned expansion of the rural network to continue, which is expected to connect a further 1500 customers over the next two years, and counter the hydropower plant’s variable output, which is due to the region’s seasonality of rainfall.

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The business model behind the hybrid development has been hailed as an innovative energy solution for the region, since it is led by the private sector and combines multiple generation sources and offtakes – including that of the national utility – at a large scale.

Geoff Sinclair, managing director of Camco Clean Energy, REPP’s investment manager, said: “Complementing the existing hydro plant with a wind farm is a smart move that will enable Rift Valley Energy to greatly improve the quality and reliability of its rural grid network, which has already had a transformational impact on thousands of homes and businesses in Tanzania.

“The success of the project should have a strong demonstration effect in other countries and provide a replicable solution for complex power supply issues elsewhere in Africa.”

Rift Valley Energy’s managing director Michael Gratwicke said the REPP facility was “critical to concluding the financial structure for the project and provides the necessary risk reduction mechanisms to best manage the anticipated rapid evolution of our associated growing rural distribution markets”.

To date, the project has created approximately 50 temporary jobs during construction, and will create a further six permanent positions for people from the surrounding area during operation.

Kelvin Ross
Kelvin Ross is Editor-in-Chief of Enlit Europe and Power Engineering International. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked on regional, national and international newspapers, as well as trade magazines serving sectors including insurance, shipping, health and financial markets. He has covered the energy sector for more than 10 years. He helped establish Energy Live News in the UK before joining PEi and he has been ranked among the top 100 global influencers on Twitter for 'renewable energy' and 'smart grid' topics.