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Zafarana Wind Farm: Egypt’s Largest Wind Power Plant

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In early 1980s, the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Energy formulated its national strategy in the field of New and Renewable Sources of Energy (NRSE) as an integral part of its global energy strategy. The strategy targeted to supply 5% of the country’s total primary needs, from NRSE by the year 2005. Priority has been given to wind, solar energy and biomass.

Wind energy utilization was promoted to occupy the top of NRSE priorities. This was based on the result of the National Wind Resource Assessment Program which proved the abundant wind energy potential at the Western Coast of the Gulf of Suez. Moreover, the North Coast of Egypt, South Sinai, East Oweinat and Gelf Ridge, enjoy high potentials for wind energy investments. The Red Sea Coast at Zafarana was selected for establishment of large scale wind farms.

The first large-scale wind farm was built in Egypt in 2000/2001. The wind farm is erected in one of the windiest sites in this part of the world, where the average wind speed exceeds 9 m/sec. The location is 120 km South of Suez on the Red Sea. The wind turbines have been manufactured and installed in a way specifically prepared to cope with Egypt’s severe desert climate, sandstorms and corrosive air. Special seals had to be created to prevent sand from getting into the units, and rotor-blade cleaning has been planned for several times per year.

The power project was set up, and includes the establishment of a large scale wind farm in Zafarana with a capacity of 600 MW by the end of the program. The project is built in successive phases, with each phase including 60 MW capacity. The New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) planned that 300 MW shall be financed through the State budget; while the private sector, local and foreign investors, are encouraged to finance the other 300 MW based on the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) system; which means that the investor will be responsible for the complete building and operation of the plant for a certain period of time, then the ownership of the plant will be transferred to the Egyptian Government.

Today, Egypt has crossed the phase of limited experimental project to the phase of grid connected large scale wind farms. A Presidential Decree has allocated the area of 80 km² on the Gulf of Suez at Zafarana site for NREA as institutional support and government commitment to the wind energy program.

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