Unexplored countries with high potential for wind energy

A lot of information is available online on countries who have the most installed wind energy capacity and how these countries are increasing their capacity every year. Think of countries like China, the United States, Germany, India or Spain. Information on countries with the most installed wind energy capacity is publicly available, very numerous and does not really need mentioning. What is much more interesting is to find out which countries have a high wind energy potential but very little to no installed capacity. Shouldn’t these countries be the next places where the industry focuses their attention on developing wind energy projects?

Searching the web will give you some general studies on wind energy potential mapping at regional, national or even global scales, but rarely make an actual list of unexplored or less known countries that have strong wind energy potential in terms of wind resources. In this post we look at six countries that could potentially be very suitable for wind energy, especially in terms of wind speed and wind power density. This is not a top list of countries but rather a selection of countries that could possibly be overlooked by future wind energy investors and developers. Most of the information on wind speed and wind power density was gathered using the Global Wind Atlas (GWA). The newest version of this atlas was recently made available by the World Bank together with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). This is an impressive wind atlas based on 1 km scale wind climate and GIS data. The freely available web-based GIS atlas was launched in November at the Wind Europe Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Oman

Oman could be one of the most biased choices on my list since I have always wanted to visit this beautiful country. The country has an estimated wind power density of 684 W/m2 and an average wind speed of 8.3 m/s at a height of 100m in the 10% most windiest areas. This is pretty much comparable to the rich wind resources of several Northern European countries. As a comparison, the Netherlands has a power density of 518 W/m2 and a 7.7 m/s wind speed in the 10% most windiest areas at 100m.

The wind resources in Oman are notably exceptional in the Southern Governorate of Dhofar (its capital city Salalah) and also in the Al Wusta Governorate. At the time of writing no wind energy has been installed in Oman, but plans have been made by Masdar for a 50 MW wind farm together with GE and Spain’s TSK.

Somalia

Somalia is very near to Oman but that is not why it is on this list, or is it ?

Both of these countries are located on the Arabian Sea in the northwestern region of the Indian Ocean. Here is where the movement of the inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) causes strong changes in the wind direction and produces wonderful conditions for high wind speeds.

Somalia is usually not associated with wind energy or any form of renewable energy for that matter. The country is often in the news for its problems due to civil wars, piracy and economic instability. However, few people know that Somalia has relatively one of the highest combined potential for wind and solar energy on the planet. The city of Garowe in Punland has been powered since 2016 by a 3.5 MW wind and solar hybrid power plant that has recently increased to 5.9 MW to provide its 50,000 inhabitants with more than 90% of their electricity demands. The power density of Somalia is estimated at 849 W/m2 and 9.0 m/s at 100m for the 10% windiest areas. This is not far from the UK estimated average of 928 W/m2 and 9,4 m/s.

Russia

With its 17 million square km landmass and its 38 thousand km long coastline, Russia has the largest potential for wind energy in terms of TWh/year on this list and one of the highest in the world. Despite its size and wind resource potential, the country only has an estimated 11 to 16 MW installed wind energy capacity. Being the largest country on Earth, Russia’s technically feasible wind energy potential is estimated at 6 TWh/year. However, it has a theoretical gross wind energy resource of 80,000 TWh/year. The country’s wind power density is estimated at 721 W/m2 with an average wind speed of 8.4 m/s at 100m in the 10% most windiest areas.

Large investments are required to tap into Russia’s wind resources with several auctions and licenses in the GW range being prepared by the federal government. Recently the Dutch Lagerwey and OTEK (RosAtom) have also signed agreements to license the Dutch wind turbine technology to OTEK.

Iceland

This country is one of the exceptions on our list. Iceland’s electricity supply is 100 % renewable energy. So the country does not need to use wind at all to supply its demand. This is ironic since Iceland’s wind speed is estimated at 11 m/s at 100m in the 10% most windiest areas with a corresponding power density of 1942 W/m2. The four constructed wind turbines with their 3 MW installed capacity in Iceland mainly serve the purpose of testing wind turbines in extreme conditions. However, Iceland could consider wind energy for electricity trading if a future subsea interconnector links the country with the United Kingdom. Another reason to consider wind power would be a future increase in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for geothermal and hydro-electric power supply.

 

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is looking to increase investments in renewable energy partly due to its steadily growing economy. The highest wind energy potential is found in the Caspian Sea region, including other areas in the central and northern parts of the country. The vast open steppe landscape gives Kazakhstan some exceptional areas to exploit wind power. The country has an estimated average wind speed of 8,0 m/s at 100m and a power density of 583 W/m2 in the 10 % windiest areas. Wind energy developments are ongoing with Vestas recently securing a wind turbine order with CAPEC Green Energy.

Vietnam

Vietnam has the highest installed wind power capacity on our list, estimated at 140-180 MW. The country deserves to be mentioned due to its 3200 km coastline with great conditions for onshore and near-shore wind energy. According to the Global Wind Atlas, Vietnam’s average wind speed at 100m is estimated at 7.8 m/s with a power density of 615 W/m2 for the 10% windiest areas. The current installed wind power capacity still forms less than 0.4% of Vietnam’s electricity generation. This is one of the reasons why developments are underway to exploit the country’s estimated technical wind energy potential of 24-28 GW.

Vietnam’s strong economic growth has been a key driver behind the recent increase in renewable energy projects. This development is attracting the formation of large wind energy alliances and is slowly directing the country towards its goal to become a regional clean energy leader.

Other wind resource hotspots

The countries mentioned in our list all have an installed wind power capacity of less than 200 MW at the time of writing. Recent developments however indicate that some of these countries will witness a substantial increase in wind energy capacity. Countries all around the world are looking at opportunities to join forces with international developers, manufacturers and investors to make the transition to renewables as smooth as possible.

Several other unexplored but high potential wind resource countries were not mentioned in this blog post but could have just as well deserved a spot on our list. Countries like Chad, Mongolia and Venezuela are a few noteworthy mentions. Some countries have specific parts that are exceptionally windy like western Afghanistan, the east of Azerbaijan or in the north of Kenya or Colombia. There are also regions that form rich wind resource hotspots like the Caspian Sea, Arabian Sea, parts of Central America or the Northern Latitude areas.

There are obviously many other factors that are important in realizing wind energy projects around the world besides wind speed and power density. But I suggest we leave those for a later blog post.

Information was obtained from Global Wind Atlas 2.0, a free, web-based application developed, owned and operated by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in partnership with the World Bank Group, utilizing data provided by Vortex, with funding provided by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). For future information: https://globalwindatlas.info 

Haydar Hussin

My name is Haydar Hussin and I am a Renewable Energy Consultant at Pondera Consult and Wind Minds. I am involved in the development of wind energy projects in The Netherlands and abroad. My fascination for combining science and business gives me an interdisciplinary view on sustainable energy which I would like to share with the readers of my blog posts.