The Wind for Prosperity program is a commercially based program that aims to deliver a hybrid energy solution to millions of people who live in impoverished areas with abundant wind resources. By refurbishing older Vestas wind turbines and combining the turbines with a diesel powered generation system, the combination will provide stable, reliable electricity to “isolated micro-grids”.
Vestas has partnered with Masdar, who will act as both investor and project developer in certain instances. During the panel discussion, Morton Albaek, Group Senior Vice President at Vestas noted that there must be surface area with a wind speed greater than or equal to 7 meters/second. In addition, Mr. Albaek noted that the stability of the government also plays a role in determining where the Wind for Prosperity program will invest. Through a 20 year PPA, Vestas believes the program will provide valuable returns to investors. Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room suggested that the Wind for Prosperity program may carry with it a 15% internal rate of return. In addition, Vestas believes this program will help open up markets to Vestas earlier rather than later, so the potential for long term gains may be there.
Vestas has identified the Vestas V27-225kw and Vestas V47-660kw as ideal for the program. These turbines, according to Vestas have been chosen for their proven reliability and operational qualities.
Rural areas in Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Vietnam, and Nicaragua have been identified as potential locations where the Wind for Prosperity program may take off. Stability in those governments and regions may be a key factor in terms of whether investors will be able to realize their return.
It is clear that without partnerships between private industry, governments, and NGO’s, the developing world will continue to suffer. Approximately 1.3 billion people around the world live without access to affordable and reliable electricity. Vestas believes where wind conditions meet the program requirements, the wind hybrid system will supply electricity at 30% or more below the alternative cost, based on diesel generation.
Does this mean that commercially-based approaches will supplant CSR initiatives? That may be the wrong question to ask. The two are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing wrong with making money and doing good at the same time. The potential for the Wind for Prosperity program to improve the lives of people in the developing world is a worthy cause. If investors can earn a return and Vestas can gain early access to markets, that is not bad either. There is no doubt that the program will be closely watched by other industry players and may be replicated if the model proves itself.
Walter Wang is an energy tax policy expert and managing editor of CleanTechies. A list of his publications can be found here. Follow Walter on Twitter: @energytaxprof