Third world aid a successful catalyst

Without applause or fanfare, a little known German overseas aid program, Technical Expertise for Renewable Energy Application (TERNA), has kick-started a series of wind plant projects in developing countries, from Africa to South America. It supports grid connected projects, particularly those where commercial viability is borderline.

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Promoting wind energy in developing countries carries its perils for a state institution. Germany's Third World wind program, Technical Expertise for Renewable Energy Application (TERNA) is no exception. Over the past four years it has run the full gambit of problems associated with finding the best way to support specific projects in specific countries. Nonetheless, TERNA can hang up a string of successes -- and the program has been extended to the close of 2000.

TERNA is run under the umbrella of the German agency for technical co-operation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Eschborn. It has bump started wind projects in Brazil and Morocco, with others in Bolivia and Namibia coming along. There have been failures along the way, such as in Bangladesh, but these have served to add experience to GTZ. A key component of a successful project, GTZ has discovered, is a dedicated partner in the recipient country.

GTZ's work with wind energy dates back to the late 1980s. At that time, the agency focused on supplying rural communities with electricity with stand-alone turbines of 50-70 kW in size. "But this turned out to be a dead end," explains Rolf Posorski of GTZ. The turbines being tested at the time were unreliable and suitable uses for them were few and far between, he says. At the same time, photovoltaic technology, with its modular structure in small kilowatt capacities, was proving more suitable and popular than wind in developing countries. GTZ could not find the technical solution for wind energy to meet demand. "And the market segment that could use the turbines on offer was much too small," Posorski adds. "At the same time the market for grid connected wind turbines in Germany was just starting its boom and it became clear that the future did not lie in stand-alone systems," he says.

Kick-starting Morocco

From these beginnings TERNA II was born with the aim of supporting grid-scale wind development. To start with, the program absorbed some of GTZ's previous work. One of TERNA's successes resulted from a GTZ initiative in Morocco in 1990. It led to the discovery of one of the best wind resources in the world: annual average wind speeds of 11.5 m/s in the Tétouan region near Tangier.

Keen to see the resource utilised, GTZ built a relationship with the Moroccan renewable energy centre, Centre de Developpement des Energies Renouvelables (CDER), which works closely with the country's national utility, Office National d'Electricite (ONE). Through TERNA's mediation in the search for funding, ONE signed a financing contract with the German development bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, to build a 3-4 MW demonstration wind station at Koudia al Baida in northern Morocco. The tender for this project has closed and the supplier will probably be chosen in the next two months, says Philippe Simonis, a GTZ expert working with CDER.

According to Simonis, TERNA also sowed the seeds for a much bigger wind farm in Morocco. In Tétouan the infrastructure is being built for a 50.4 MW project at Koudia al-Baidain (Windpower Monthly, December 1997). It is to consist of 84, 600 kW Vestas turbines, due on line in 1999 under a Build Operate Transfer (BOT). ONE is committed to buying the power for a period of 19 years. The project costs of $64 million are supported by the French utility EDF, Paribas Bank and French wind engineering consultancy Germa, a joint developer.

The co-operation developed in Morocco since the beginning of the 1990s has worked well, says Posorski. "CDER is an ideal partner for a program like TERNA as we only achieve something when projects are taken beyond the wind measurement phase," he says. ONE is already interested in further projects. The utility hopes to install one or two turbines at each of five sites -- Essaouira, Dakhla, Laayoune, Tan-Tan and Tarfaya -- according to Posorski. Currently TERNA is supporting wind measuring by CDER at Tan-Tan and Tarfaya on the Atlantic coast 500 kilometres south of Agadir. It has supplied wind monitoring instruments and consultancy advice.

Looking further ahead, a huge, 200 MW project is also in the pipeline. Simonis says it will most likely be built as a BOT project and involve three sites, two in the north (Tangier) and one in the south (Tarfaya). A tender is being prepared, probably for launch next year, he adds.

South America too

In Brazil, too, the activities of TERNA I are continuing in phase II. In 1989 GTZ started measuring winds at three coastal sites in the province of Cear‡ together with Brazilian utility Coelce. By 1993 average winds as high as 8-9 m/s had been discovered -- information which sparked the interest of California wind developer SeaWest and its turbine supplier Mitsubishi. Their preliminary study of a project for two 30 MW wind farms led to the involvement of the Japan's Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund (OECF) which supplied a soft loan for development of 60 MW of wind power (story page 22).

Meantime GTZ assisted in the pre-feasibility study of another project, later brought under TERNA's wing. Backing for the construction of a 1.2 MW demonstration wind station for Coelce at Mucuripe in Fortaleza was provided from Germany's Eldorado program which provided aid for renewables in poor countries. Four 300 kW Tacke machines resulted (Windpower Monthly, November 1996).

To the west in Bolivia, a GTZ program dubbed "Proper," which expired in April 1998 under the TERNA I umbrella, lives on under TERNA II. Through Proper, GTZ supported a one year wind monitoring program by the regional utility, Cooperativa Rural de Electricacion (CRE) in the province of Santa Cruz in 1993. TERNA has since helped with preparation of a tender for a 22 MW wind station. Project financing is now being sought by the utility from the Danish overseas aid program, DANIDA.

Inevitably, not all the TERNA initiatives will bear fruit. "We don't aim to promote only the best wind sites around the world," says Posorski. It is the wind sites with less than prime qualities that TERNA also tries to reach. "There is a whole layer of projects which lie under the cream on the cake, where the economic risk is higher and which private developers are edgy about. These are our targets too," he says.

Bangladesh and Namibia

This was the case in Bangladesh. On the initiative of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and the Rural Electrification Board (REB), Bangladesh called on TERNA in March 1996 for help in evaluating potential wind sites. But when the results of the monitoring were made known at a training seminar for REB engineers, TERNA decided that average speeds of 5-6 m/s were insufficient for the project to be recommended for financing.

The most recent TERNA project is in Namibia (Windpower Monthly, January 1998). GTZ is helping to investigate the potential of wind energy for powering desalination plant. Good average wind speeds have been monitored at Walvis Bay and Lüderitz and GTZ is co-operating with the Namibian Ministry for Mines and Energy, utility Nampower and two municipalities in a feasibility study of wind plants at both sites. Costs and efficiencies of different supply solutions are being compared. The main alternatives to building a wind farm specifically to supply power to the two towns are an extension or improvement of the grid link with South Africa, or development of a gas field and construction of a gas plant for the whole region.

Posorski is satisfied with the way the TERNA program is developing. Critics claim, however, that it has not done much to stimulate the use of German wind turbine technology abroad. But Posorski argues that this is not the purpose of TERNA. "The aim of TERNA is to provide neutral and objective advice on potential wind projects, not to support exclusively German turbines," he says. "It is perhaps surprising though that German companies have so far made little use of the program."

Posorski notes that developers have discovered they can initiate projects eligible for TERNA support by giving the local utility a nudge. It then gets government backing for its TERNA application, which is sent to GTZ via the German Ministry for Economic Co-operation. "Expressions of interest from China and Argentina may well turn into concrete projects this year," he says.

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