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Vergnet Groupe, the French Company constructing Ethiopia’s first wind farm, the 120 Mega Watt Ashegoda Wind Farm, revealed that it plans to fully complete and hand over the project by mid-2013.
The finance for the project, which reportedly will cost about 200 million Euros, comes principally from the French Development Agency AFD, and the French financial institution, BNP Paribas.
Vergnet had an Engineering Procurement Commissioning (EPC) contract with the state utility company Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO), to build the 120 MW Ashegoda wind farm 10 kms from the capital city of the Tigray regional state, Mekelle, about four years ago. The project consists of 30, one MW, wind turbines and 54, 1.67 MW, wind turbines plus a huge sub-station to connect the wind farm to the grid, on high-voltage lines, with the substation already completed and handed over in April 2012.
Pierre Pesnel, Official Representative of Vergnet, said the company is already preparing to handover the first section of the wind farm, consisting of 7 turbines that have been working since April 2012 with the cooperation of EEPCO.
The company said Wind energy is a relatively young form of alternative energy, and only started to be competitive in the last two decades; along with Solar energy, it needs the support of the government in largely designing, adapting and amending the policies, laws and regulations of the country to include these types of energy. So far, the energy sector only has policies designed to accommodate fossil fuel and hydro electric power.
It also says wind energy and hydro power are seasonally complimentary, where one can fill in the gap the other leaves.
According to Pesnel, one important part of the project is the training of EEPCO employees because, after the period of operation and maintenance the company provides expires, EEPCO employees will manage the operation alone.
“We’re going to operate the wind farm for five years after its completion.” Pierre said, adding that during those first five years, EEPCO personnel will be paired with Vergnet professionals to learn how to operate the wind turbines. Roughly 300 people, including 10 expatriate workers, are currently working on the site.
Pierre defended the delay in the completion of the wind farm project by saying the wind turbine components are manufactured especially for this project as the need arises and that they didn’t stockpile these components. This, along with the patchy roads from Djibouti to Mekelle with its destroyed bridges makes for longer routing, preventing project components from reaching the site on time.
He also said the coming phases of the project will be finished in a much shorter time, because many of the technical points and difficulties the company faced and is still facing, this being its first project in Ethiopia, are expected to be resolved.
“The delay will not exceed a maximum of 30 percent of what was originally scheduled,” Pierre said, adding that the original schedule date was 36 calendar months, and although the project will be finished later than the delivery date, they’re working hard to deliver it as soon as possible.
Vergnet, which has two decades of experience, specializes in installations, in places which pose great logistical challenges and in remote areas with difficult terrain. It has done or currently is doing various projects in other African, South American, as well as Asian countries.
This project is part of the Ethiopian government’s plan to generate up to 890 MW of wind energy by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) period.
The stated tasks of these kinds of projects by the Ethiopian Government, is to create a climate-shockproof economy by the year 2025.