The saturation of Africa’s larger electricity grids by wind power projects will lead to grid stability problems and confirm the need to adopt a better suited, more integrated technological approach to wind developments. Because this region is located on the edge of one of the largest electricity grids (that of the EU), its vast renewable energy potential could be used to produce significant amounts of wind energy. Generated at competitive costs, these could ultimately end-up supplying larger regional electricity markets. This however, will require an effect of scale. Developing initial mechanisms to progressively firm these intermittent energy sources locally is an imperative first step as they lie on the critical path of major alternative, sustainable energy developments.
Besides the large scale transfer of electricity utilizing a High Voltage Direct Current line as envisioned by the Sahara Wind Project, local mechanisms for accessing renewables energies need to support the local development of clean energy-intensive industries. These could ultimately lead to the emergence of a low-carbon industry dissociated from fossil fuels, relying instead on wind-electricity and renewable energy storage technologies. Renewable hydrogen for instance, generated through wind-electrolysis can be integrated into the processing of local mineral deposits. In supporting energy intensive industries, cleaner technologies introduced through pilot projects could be gradually expanded over Morocco and Mauritania’s large trade windblown regions. When electricity and hydrogen are simultaneously co-generated through industrial synergies, no CO2 emissions are emitted. Used amongst others in steel-making and fertilizer industries, over 80% of the world’s industrial hydrogen production is currently derived from fossil fuel reforming. This Process emits 6 tons of CO2 per ton of hydrogen produced. This represents a significant environmental challenge, particularely when clean-mobility perspectives are taken into consideration.
The stabilization of electricity grids through wind-electrolysis may be an essential component for accessing wind electricity. By providing storage and flexibility to fluctuating energy inputs, the functioning of the region’s weaker electricity grids can thereby be enhanced. Hence, these technologies are currently being tested within ‘green campus concepts’ deployed regionally at partnering Universities of the ‘Sahara Trade Winds to Hydrogen Project’.
It may be sensible to mention that wind-electrolysis stabilization technologies as well as hydrogen energy systems are modular. They enable the storage and integration of wind electricity at higher penetration rates through small, medium and large scale industrial applications. The latter represent the most promising route for accessing renewables and sustainable development objectives, as they would also facilitate a cleaner processing of natural resources. The value-added derivatives generated through local industrial synergies could provide significant economic gains that would ultimately benefit the region.
The development of a wind industry to service the energy needs of industrial processes could, thanks to the availability of local resources, be replicated on a very large scale on the trade windblown coastline of the Sahara Desert. Renewable hydrogen generated as a by-product from industrial processes, is likely to reinforce the local integration of this resource, which prior to any export considerations, remains one of the key objectives of the Sahara Wind Project.