At the end of the road, huge white masts. It’s Taïba Ndiaye. The largest wind farm in West Africa. Soon, its 46 wind turbines will be complete, ready to inject 15% of additional energy into the country’s electricity grid. And as of June 2020, this flagship project of 200 billion CFA francs (342 million euros), will provide 158 megawatts.
Senegal’s first industrial scale wind project, Taïba Ndiaye confirms Senegal’s ambition to position itself as a regional green energy platform. Since his election in 2012, President Macky Sall has already inaugurated four solar power plants, including the largest in the sub-region. Ultimately, renewables should make up 30% of the country’s energy mix and Taïba Ndiaye will supply half.
“It changed our lives”
But “It will have taken ten years to convince”, recalls Yassine Majdallah, director of the Taïba Ndiaye power station. In 2007, a small team of French Senegalese promoters discovered the potential of the coastal region of Thiès (86 km north of Dakar), swept by the harmattan and the Atlantic winds. Their speed, between 8 and 20 meters per second (m / s), is ideal for energy production. So quickly seven hectares of cassava, corn and peanut fields are negotiated with the populations in order to install the turbines. In 2016, Lekela, a company specializing in wind energy, which has already built similar parks in South Africa, Egypt and Ghana, signs a power purchase contract with the National Electricity Company of Senegal ( Senelec).
Under the 117-meter-high steel masts, the workers of the Danish company Vestas, fix the last blades, “Among the largest and most efficient in the world”, assures Yassine Majdallah. Sixteen of them have been operating since early December, each producing 3.45 MW. “They are automated, pivot their nacelle in order to obtain the best inclination relative to the wind and stop if it exceeds 21 m / s, he continues, reminding in passing that “Unlike thermal energy, wind power does not require continuous human monitoring”.
The 24-hour turbines are expected to supply two million people with electricity. Even today, 45% of the 16 million Senegalese do not have access to electricity. A proportion that climbs to 60% in the countryside. But not here, of course, where of the 35 villages in the park, “Almost all of them are electrified, advises Abdou Gueye, farmer. It changed our lives. We have lighting in the evening, ventilation in the summer, a telephone to reach the family and a television to find out. I’m only missing a fridge that my pensioner’s scholarship cannot afford ”.
“I can’t grow anything”
Abdou Gueye is one of the compensation recipients of Taïba Ndiaye. 410 growers whose land was annexed by the power plant and the wind turbines. He received nearly 12 million CFA (18,400 euros) for seven fields crossed and mango, lemon and acacia trees cut. He is now growing his cassava in the shade of the turbines, even finding ” beautiful “ these giants who stare at his land. “But some locals dislike their noise and their appearance”, he adds. Many peasants were concerned that the wind turbines, acting as fans, would tear the fruit and leaves from the trees. Ousmane Diedhiou, the community liaison officer, had to explain to them that this clean energy would “Without impact on animals or people. “
While most of the fears have subsided and the project is fairly well received, some are still annoyed with the compensation process. “They came to take our land by force! Time to chat with people, they were already starting work, observes Seny Sall in his metallurgy workshop, behind the town hall of the village of Taïba Ndiaye. It is a good project for the country but they have not given a good compensation. At 125 CFA per m², we have a big shortfall. Each year you can make 2 million on a cassava or watermelon field. There we are left a space with dust, crossed by roads and poles. I can’t grow anything there ”, regrets the man.
According to the company, the regulations were respected, with compensation amounting to 1,050,000 CFA francs per hectare impacted and 50,000 per adult mango tree uprooted. The project even went further, reimbursing the hectare at 3 million and the mango tree at 118,870. “There is scheming!” continues Mr. Gueye. I only received 350,000 CFA for my hectare. We were paid in cash and not in checks at the bank, no trace. “ He thinks that the intermediaries used it and ensures that out of the 14,000 inhabitants of the surrounding villages, ” thousands “ share his opinion. “The mayor says that everything is fine” while “The sub-prefect threatened a group of dissatisfied people who were forming. “
Extensive social investment program
To calm the spirits, a vast social investment program was endowed with about twelve billion CFA (18.4 million euros) with a new market, a computer room for the high school, a renovated library, a pilot farm. and the training of twelve young people in electricity.
There remains a misunderstanding. How could the government, at the end of November, increase the already very expensive electricity price by 10% – a kilowatt hour costs 124 CFA (0.19 euro, it is 0.15 euro in France) – as production increases? In order to make up for its deficit, the government has decided to lower Senelec’s subsidies. This is also “Not yet able to receive all the energy from our turbines”, explains Yassine Majdallah.
“Wind power is currently cheaper than oil or coal power plants that have to be imported”, he adds. But from 2023, Senegal will be a gas producer with reserves estimated at 1,400 billion m³. Will he turn to this abundant source of energy to lower the cost of electricity? This does not worry Yassine Majdallah. “We will remain the least polluting energy with solar energy. Our resource is free, it comes from the sky! “. And there is already talk of an extension of the park.