The 1.5GW total represents a five-fold increase year on year and is an all-time high for the continent, beating the previous record of 1.2GW, which was set in 2015.
South Africa accounted for nearly two-thirds (944MW) of Africa’s signed turbine purchase agreements in 2018, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly.
The South African government signed long-delayed power purchase agreements (PPAs) in April 2018, enabling independent power producers to announce final investment decisions and order turbines, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (WMPR) noted.
Senior analyst Sohaib Malik added that construction activity is set to peak in South Africa in 2020 and 2021 – when work will be carried out on more than 1GW of projects – as developers "race to achieve commercial operations".
This year, South African wind farms with a combined capacity of 130MW are due to be completed, but the country’s impending Integrated Resources Plan is expected to target more than 10GW of additional capacity by 2030, WPR added.
Despite last year’s surge of turbine orders in South Africa, no new capacity was added in the country in 2018.
Across Africa, new additions were made in only four countries in 2018 – Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria – bringing the continent’s cumulative capacity to 5.5GW by the end of last year.
Malik noted that the continent had a wind power pipeline of 18GW as of Q1 2019, of which 6.5GW is in "advanced development".
He said: "The scale of the development pipeline underlines the ability of the continent’s largest wind markets to grow in a sustained manner, providing a blueprint for emerging markets to tap their wind potential and fuel economic growth."
However, Malik warned that Africa’s project realisation "remains low".
He added that there was a "growing momentum" behind long-term support mechanisms to boost regional development.
For example, South Africa and Morocco introduced auction programmes in 2011 and 2015 respectively, Tunisia solicited bids in 2017, while Kenya and Ethiopia are both considering holding auctions in the future.
Such policy shifts mirror a global trend of competitive procurement programs, which have led to lower tariffs in many markets.
However, Malik warned that "auction volumes may not be sufficient to draw the attention of global wind industry leaders" while project realisation rates stay low.
Private sector confidence
Analysts at WMPR also tracked a move to an IPP-led market in Egypt (a pipeline of 1.3GW) and Morocco (1GW), whereas previously, government agencies had led the sector.
An Engie-led consortium is due to commission the 262MW Gulf of Suez project in Egypt this year, while commissioning of the 1GW awarded between 2012 and 2016 in Morocco will boost IPP’s role in the market, Malik noted.
The intelligence firm added that "as more governments introduce long-term plans to support wind power and heed investors’ concerns, private sector confidence in emerging markets will continue growing".