Cape Verde: Cabeólica
Powering a sustainable future for Cape Verde
The Cape Verdean archipelago, 570km off the West African coast, is consistently windy with average speeds of ten metres per second. The first grid-connected wind turbines were constructed in 1994 to harness this potential, but twelve years later wind power represented less than two percent of Cape Verde’s energy mix.
Cape Verde’s energy system instead relied on imported oil which had to be transported out to the islands. Power was therefore expensive and unreliable, constraining Cape Verde’s economic development. The Government of Cape Verde recognised the potential of wind power but struggled to interest the private sector in developing larger-scale wind farms in this remote island location.
The project constructed 30 wind turbines across four of Cape Verde’s islands (Boa Vista, São Vicente, Sal and Santiago) and established Cabeólica SA as the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) to deliver commercial scale wind power in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, Cabeólica has an installed capacity of 25.5MW and provides sufficient renewable power to satisfy roughly 25% of Cape Verde’s demand for electricity.
In 2006, the Government of Cape Verde and Electra S.A.R.L (the national utility) approached InfraCo Africa, after twice failing to complete a public procurement process: Cape Verde being a small island economy and the project being both complex and pioneering had deterred private sector investors. InfraCo Africa provided the funding and expertise needed to overcome the project’s challenges and to develop a sustainable, commercially viable wind farm. InfraCo Africa partnered with the Government to address the complex legal and regulatory issues surrounding large-scale wind power generation.
InfraCo Africa also resolved the technical issues associated with establishing a wind farm across dispersed islands and connecting to multiple isolated island grids with limited renewables capacity. The project even imported the trucks, cranes and equipment needed to build the turbines. Cabeólica has now been fully operational for three years and staffed entirely by skilled Cape Verdean employees.
Cabeólica is a ground-breaking project, recognised globally for its environmental, social and commercial success. In 2011, the project won Best Renewable Energy Project of the Year at the Africa Energy Awards. Cabeólica was also awarded the prestigious global Ashden Award for Small Island Developing States in recognition of its pioneering work.
“We see this award as a solidification of the notion that the project has gone beyond the standard…to provide the best solution for sustainable energy supply in Cape Verde – the transformation of a local abundant resource into clean electricity for the development of the country and the wellbeing of our people.”
Antão Fortes, CEO, Cabeólica
Funding has been provided by the European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, Africa Finance Corporation and Finnfund.