How wind power can help the poor

Vestas is leading an effort to bring hybrid power generation – systems that combine factory-refurbished wind turbines and what the company calls “advanced diesel power generation” – to the poor, beginning with as many as 13 projects in Kenya that could serve 200,000 people with electricity at 30 percent below the current cost of diesel-only power production.

The Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar is in on the program, called Wind for Prosperity, as is, on the money side, Frontier Investment Management, an asset management firm based in London.

image via Vestas

Vestas made a point that Wind for Prosperity, although intended to do good, isn’t a philanthropic effort.

“As one of the biggest corporate initiatives to combat energy poverty and deploy green technology in developing countries, Wind for Prosperity is a triple-win – generating growth, reducing pollution, and doing both profitably,” Vestas group senior VP and chief marketing officer Morten Albæk said in a statement [PDF].

According to the announcement, Masdar “will focus on managing the development and construction of Wind for Prosperity projects” and “Vestas will focus on wind-mapping, site design, and sourcing and refurbishing wind turbines.”

Vestas touted its “unique weather data processing capabilities to identify energy-poor but wind-rich areas” that could be well-served by the hybrid systems.

Frontier Investment Management, meanwhile, “is actively involved in developing the Kenyan opportunity and together with Vestas is exploring potential Wind for Prosperity projects in other African countries.” Those countries could include Ethiopia and Tanzania, and outside Africa, Yemen, Pakistan, Vietnam and Nicaragua are under consideration.

Vestas has suffered through a couple of years of losses and job cuts amid an industry-wide period of overcapacity, and it brought a new chief executive on board this past summer. The company in late September announced a joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop offshore wind energy. Success there will play a much bigger role in its future than Wind for Prosperity, but no doubt the hard-pressed company could benefit from edging its way into new markets with the program.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling