Monitoring starts at two locations

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Preliminary resource assessment in recently-independent Eritrea suggests that the small east African nation could generate more than enough wind powered electricity for its domestic consumption. Eritrea, a poor county with a population of about three million, is especially interested in wind as it could mean independence from imported diesel fuel at a lower cost than other renewable alternatives.

Two sites have been located that may well support projects. Already funding is being sought for a wind cluster near the southern city of Assab. "It looks as if there is a real world class wind resource on the south east coast [of the Red Sea] ", says Karina Garbesi, assistant professor of geography and environmental studies at San Jose State University in California. Garbesi is collaborating on the research with the Eritrean Department of Energy. Eritrea, founded in 1991, borders the Red Sea and Ethiopia and is just north of the Horn of Africa.

Data at the coastal Assab site, gathered in the era of Ethiopian rule, suggest annual average wind speeds of more than 9 m/s, says Garbesi. Currently, diesel is imported to generate power for the local 20 MW grid. The area has a fishing industry. Also promising is an "Altamont Pass" site located in a pass into the interior highlands and near Dekamhare. Demand certainly exists since capital Asmara is near the site, which has strongest winds during the winter. Indeed it appears the seasonality of Eritrea's winds may as a whole complement the hydrogenerated resource in Ethiopia, which would enable the two countries to trade power.

Monitoring will start soon at both locations, while funding for one to several utility-scale machines for a pilot project is being sought, says Garbesi. The most immediate challenge may be the region's dust storms.

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