Although Atlantic trade winds that blow from Morocco through Senegal represent some of the planet's largest wind energy potentials, their intermittent nature undermines optimal utilization possibilities. Only a marginal proportion of that wind energy can be fed into the region’s weaker grids infrastructure. While clean energy generation perspectives are considerably reduced, this also prevents any industrial integration and economic development from taking place locally on a significant scale.
Thus, a conventional approach to wind energy developments to feed smaller local electricity markets cannot enable a viable wind energy industry to be established. Building local capacities to secure the gradual deployment of an integrated energy industry is essential for tackling the region's current economic challenges. With the lack of local employments and Sub-Saharan migrant populations moving to the North, a significant development imperative is gradually emerging. A wind energy industry accompanied by job creations with social benefits could help improve the region’s economics. This can be particularly relevant when accessing one of the world’s largest wind resources.
Applied research projects aimed at developing skills through industrial synergies and renewables will enable North Africa’s scientific communities to take a comprehensive look at energy systems. This will help them and adopt a more holistic, integrated approach to energy technologies. Driven by external market forces in the past, ready-made solutions with limited integration potential have done very little in terms of local development.
Indeed, experiences in Africa showed that efforts aimed at introducing (new) wind energy technologies amounted ultimately to the simple import of turnkey equipments through concessionary sources of financing and export credit packages. Besides environmental benefits, such policies achieved limited economic returns for a technology that addresses global energy and security challenges.
In encouraging countries with similar potentials to collaborate and exchange expertise, upstream development activities relative to the Sahara Wind project have made it relevant to deploy "green campus concepts". These regional applied research frameworks enabled carbon-free hydrogen production perspectives to be established in dedicated excellence centers located at universities.
As mineral-exporting industries represent the main electric loads to supply in the Sahara desert, collaborative partnerships can be extended into subsequent pilot projects aimed at sustainably transforming the region's significant mineral deposits.
Originating from the Atlantic trade winds, the transformation of the earth's largest known Phosphates deposits becomes a key element of global sustainability. With World Food Security at stake -since Phosphates are needed as fertilizers- the large-scale, cost-competitive incorporation of wind power in support of energy intensive mineral transformation processes will improve resource efficiencies. Boosting sustainability prospects for local value-added extractive industries provides a multiplier effect.
In addition to the possibility of transforming the major iron-ore deposits of Mauritania into steel derivatives through hydrogen direct reduction processes (using wind-electrolysis), this energy-water and global food nexus will become a central issue in years to come. They represent global and multi-generational sustainable development imperatives that will mobilize the region’s industries for some time.