Characterizing wind power resource reliability in southern Africa

Charles Fant*, Bhaskar Gunturu, Adam Schlosser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Producing electricity from wind is attractive because it provides a clean, low-maintenance power supply. However, wind resource is intermittent on various timescales, thus occasionally introducing large and sudden changes in power supply. A better understanding of this variability can greatly benefit power grid planning. In the following study, wind resource is characterized using metrics that highlight these intermittency issues; therefore identifying areas of high and low wind power reliability in southern Africa and Kenya at different time-scales. After developing a wind speed profile, these metrics are applied at various heights in order to assess the added benefit of raising the wind turbine hub. Furthermore, since the interconnection of wind farms can aid in reducing the overall intermittency, the value of interconnecting near-by sites is mapped using two distinct methods. Of the countries in this region, the Republic of South Africa has shown the most interest in wind power investment. For this reason, we focus parts of the study on wind reliability in the country. The study finds that, although mean Wind Power Density is high in South Africa compared to its neighboring countries, wind power resource tends to be less reliable than in other parts of southern Africa-namely central Tanzania. We also find that South Africa's potential varies over different timescales, with higher reliability in the summer than winter, and higher reliability during the day than at night. This study is concluded by introducing two methods and measures to characterize the value of interconnection, including the use of principal component analysis to identify areas with a common signal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-573
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study of the wind resource in southern Africa was primarily funded by the United Nations University – World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER). The authors gratefully acknowledge this as well as additional financial support for this work provided by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy , Office of Science under Grants DE-FG02-94ER61937 , DE-FG02-08ER64597 , DE-FG02-93ER61677 , DE-SC0003906 , DE- SC0007114 , XEU-0-9920-01 ; the U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory under Subcontract 4000109855; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Grants XA-83240101 , PI-83412601-0 , RD-83427901-0 , XA-83505101-0 , XA-83600001-1 , and subcontract UTA12-000624 ; the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grants AGS-0944121 , EFRI-0835414 , IIS-1028163 , ECCS-1128147 , ARC-1203526 , EF-1137306 , AGS-1216707 , and SES-0825915 ; the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grants NNX06AC30A , NNX07AI49G , NNX11AN72G and Sub Agreement No. 08-SFWS-209365.MIT ; the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration under Grants 06-C-NE-MIT , 09-C-NE-MIT , Agmt. No. 4103-30368 ; the U.S. Department of Transportation under Grant DTRT57-10-C-10015 ; the Electric Power Research Institute under Grant EP-P32616/C15124 , EP-P8154/C4106 ; the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Grant 58-6000-2-0099 , 58-0111-9-001 ; and a consortium of 35 industrial and foundation sponsors (for the complete list see: ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.


  • Africa
  • Intermittency
  • Reanalysis
  • Renewable energy
  • South Africa
  • Wind energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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