The first public utility wind farm in Senegal located in the town ofTaiba Ndiaye (90 km north of Dakar), is slated to enter into service in December 2019, a deadline that is likely to be met, as the 16 wind turbines to produce the first 50 megawatts, are 99 percent completed.By Abdourahmane Diallo
The bulk of the work is currently being done at the sub-station of the wind park, which will be connected to the national grid through the country’s electricity company (Senelec).
In the distance can be seen the turbines of the wind farm perched majestically above the savannah grassland of Taiba Ndiaye and moments later West Africa’s largest wind power plant comes into view.
The first warning for visitors tells them to “Keep off the building site!” and another advises them to follow safety instructions.
At the entrance, some workers discuss under a tree, just to take refuge from the hot burning sun of a late October morning.
Once inside the park open exceptionally to the press, the cameramen rush to take pictures, but they are quickly interrupted by the security officer at the site who tells them to join their bus, saying he was not informed about any visits by journalists.
A phone call punctuated by a few minutes of waiting culminates in the appearance of Massaer Cisse and his team who alight from a white pickup filled with signal vests and hard hats.
Jacqueline Gomis, one of the team members was chosen to give us some safety briefing.
“Considering the size and location of the plant in a rural setting, security measures are drastic. Whether it is in terms of access or work, these are safety measures to very high standards that are applied to avoid potential accidents,” says the CEO of Lekela Senegal, the contracting firm in charge of the building work.
After the usual precautions, the visit starts.
A pit-lined lateritic track of about 300 meters leads to the foot of the first turbine of
The Taiba Ndiaye Wind Farm (PETN) is impressive by its size.
It covers some 40 hectares and will eventually comprise 46 wind turbines.
Considered as the most modern in the world, according to the first park manager, it has a total capacity of 158.7 megawatts of clean energy.
With its wind turbines that peak at about 180m, the plant will eventually allow a 15-percent increase in the country’s power generation capacity and thus cover the energy needs of some two million people, according to its director general.
“This is a significant project for several reasons, the first is purely energetic. The size and energy capacity that will come from this plant will satisfy an urgent need for the country. With this park also, Senelec will have an energy mix that will account for about 25 percent of renewable energy,” Massaer Cisse says, adding that very few countries “can pride themselves” for having achieved such a feat.
With a total cost of about €340 million i.e. nearly CFA200 billion, the commissioning of the wind farm will be done in three phases: 50 megawatts will be delivered to Senelec in December, then a second batch of the same importance in April 2020 and finally a final one of 58.7 megawatts in July of the same year.
Confident as to the compliance with the delivery deadline of the first phase of the plant, Mr. Cisse emphasises that the biggest challenge after the start of the plant will be the absorption of the energy production by Senelec’s transport and distribution network.
“Injecting 150 megawatts of renewable energy into the national grid is technically very difficult. We have a network that is not up to date; it requires work that can take years,” he says, insisting he is “quite at ease” with the capacity the national electricity transmission system to absorb the output that will come from the plant.
The implementation of PETN required two years of studies and data collection on wind behavior in the area.
And given the size of the plant, several people from the area have been impacted, Massaer Cisse confesses, preferring however to stress the positive aspect of this impact.
He goes on to say: “When you develop this kind of project, there is always a positive impact at the community level, particularly in terms of job creation. At the moment, we employ 247 Senegalese out of a total population of 600 or so, representing more than a third of the employees. And that’s for the construction work alone.”
According to him, it will be the same when the plant enters the exploitation phase. As the facility is an innovative project, all the people, he assures journalists, who will work in the exploitation part will be trained “because it is our benefit to have local teams that are able to ensure the maintenance and operation our equipment.”
“Our job is to have a positive impact in the community and especially in training,” he insists, adding that Lekela will develop in Senegal a technical capacity and expertise that can be exported.
Several peasants in the area were forced to abandon their fields to make room for these gigantic machines.
For their compensation, Lekela committed itself “to going from single to double,” Amadou Sow, the Environment & Social Manager of the company says.
“At the district level, the hectare of land is compensated to the tune of CFA1,005,000, we took on us the responsibility to go to three million CFA francs. A mango tree is compensated to 50,000 CFA francs but we took on the responsibility to rise to the standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to go up to CFA118,000,” he explains.
Similarly, to comply with IFC Standard 5 on restoring community livelihoods, Lekela is developing a pilot farm for 14 people impacted by the project.
The latter will attend training courses on modern agriculture techniques.
All this information has been confirmed by the person in charge of the affected populations, who is very hopeful about the success of this pilot project in order to attract other benefactors to support them in their economic and social development projects.
Beyond this financial compensation, PETN trained 12 students of the Thies Technical High School who were commuting between electrical engineering complex and the building site.
The beneficiaries of this partnership now constitute a pool of jobs for Lekela and all the companies working in Senegal.
The company headed by Massaer Cisse also built a computer room in Taiba Ndiaye High School.
Hailing this initiative, the Principal, Cheikh Tidiane Keita, sees this as an opportunity to reduce the digital divide, to the great benefit of his students and teachers.
“This computer room will serve us not only as a research tool but also as a bookstore and a virtual laboratory,” he enthuses, recalling, among other supports for the high school endeavors, the building of a 2-meter fence to counter theft of educational materials.
The other good news announced by Massaer Cisse is that the computer room of the Tatba Ndiaye High School will have the Internet speed of the wind farm, the highest in Senegal.
Several other investment initiatives, ranging from reforestation to road construction, have also been made by the PETN operator to enable mainly rural populations to transport their agricultural products to nearby markets.