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Should wind energy, industrial integration and sustainable development be linked?
Sustainable Development PDF Print E-mail
Although the Saharan trade winds that extend from Morocco through Senegal represent some of the largest wind energy potentials available on earth, their erratic nature undermines any optimal utilization possibilities to the extent that 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 may be an essential component needed for tackling the region's current economic challenges. Indeed, due to a lack of local employments and as this area comes under pressure from Sub-Saharan migrant populations moving to the North, a significant development imperative is gradually emerging. Hence, an integrated wind energy industry accompanied by job creations and social benefits could improve the region’s economics significantly. This is particularly relevant as such developments would be based on the utilization of one of the world’s best 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 and adopt more holistic, integrated approach to energy technologies. These have been driven thus far mostly by external market forces which tended to provide unsuited ready-made solutions in terms of local development. Indeed, experiences in North Africa have clearly shown 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. Such policies have done very little in terms of local impact or capacity building for a technology that could have been promising in terms of economic returns, as it addresses energy access, energy security, and the creation of an integrated industrial activity.

In encouraging countries with similar potentials to collaborate and exchange expertise, upstream project development activities relative to the Sahara Wind Energy Development Project have made it relevant to deploy "green campus concepts". Within such regional applied research frameworks carbon free hydrogen production perspectives have been established in dedicated excellence centers located at universities. It may be sensible to mention as an example, that wind-electrolysis for grid stabilization and hydrogen production for energy storage enables the integration of wind energy systems within weak grids through small, medium and large integrated applications.