UN PROJECT FINDS THOUSANDS OF MEGAWATTS OF SOLAR, WIND ENERGY POTENTIAL
IN 13 DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
United Nations Press Release
April 14, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C., 14 April (UNEP) -- Thousands of megawatts of new renewable
energy potential in Africa, Asia, South and Central America have been
discovered by a pioneering project to map the solar and wind resource
of 13 developing countries.
The multimillion dollar project, called the Solar and Wind Energy Resource
Assessment (SWERA), is proving that the potential for deploying solar
panels and wind turbines in these countries is far greater than previously
First results from the project are being released here today in WashingtonD.C.
at an international meeting of scientists and policymakers organised by
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is coordinating
SWERA on behalf of more than 25 institutions around the world.
“In developing countries all over the world we have removed some
of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind
resource”, said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director.
“These countries need greatly expanded energy services to help in
the fight against poverty and to power sustainable development. The SWERA
offers them the technical and policy assistance to capture the potential
that renewable energy can offer”, he said.
Since its beginning, in 2001, and with substantial support from the Global
Environment Facility (GEF), the $9.3 million SWERA project (http://swera.unep.net)
has been developing a range of new information tools to stimulate renewable
energy development, including detailed maps of wind and solar resources.
“As energy planners seek cleaner energy solutions using renewable
energy technologies, the availability of reliable, accurate and accessible
solar and wind energy information is critical and can significantly accelerate
the deployment of these technologies”, says Mr. Toepfer.
He cited the case of California, where the availability of good wind
data greatly accelerated the development of wind farms and a global wind
industry. Likewise, he says, SWERA’s aim is to support informed
decision-making, develop energy policy based on science and technology,
and increase investor confidence in renewable energy projects.
The SWERA team has assessed wind and solar energy resources using a range
of data from satellites and ground-based instruments -- often with surprising
results. In Nicaragua, for example, SWERA assessments of wind resources
demonstrated a much greater potential than the 200 megawatts (MW) estimated
in the 1980s.
The results prompted the Nicaraguan National Assembly to pass the Decree
on Promotion of Wind Energy of Nicaragua 2004 that gives wind-generated
electricity “first dispatch”, meaning it has the first priority
over other options when fed into electricity grids. The US Trade and Development
Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank have subsequently launched
wind energy feasibility studies in Nicaragua, and wind investment projects
are now advancing with 40 MW planned in two projects and two more exploration
The SWERA information is also providing solar resource information for
a range of cooperative efforts in Nicaragua between groups, such as the
World Bank and the GEF for projects focused on rural electrification.
Six thousand (6,000) solar PV systems, for example, are being installed
in World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank rural electrification
In Guatemala, wind estimates before SWERA were mostly unknown, but is
now estimated at 7,000 megawatts, based on SWERA products. The Guatemala
Ministry of Energy has established, with support from SWERA, the Centre
for Renewable Energy and Investment within the Ministry to carry out validation
studies and identify sites for wind energy development.
In Sri Lanka, the SWERA assessment found a land wind power potential
of about 26,000 MW representing more than 10 times the country’s
installed electrical capacity, while an initial assessment in Ghana reveals
more than 2,000 MW of wind energy potential, mainly along the border with
Togo. In Africa, this is quite a significant amount, as by some estimates,
the continent needs just 40,000 MW of electricity to power its industrialization
(see UNEP Governing Council, http://www.unep.org/gc/gc23/)
The SWERA’s data collection and analysis network of international
and national agencies is also creating a global archive of solar and wind
energy resources and maps that is available on CD-ROM or through the website.
Another important SWERA tool, the Geospatial Toolkit, allows wind and
solar maps to be combined with electrical distribution grids and other
information to provide high-quality information that supports energy planning
and policy development, while lowering the risk for renewable energy project
developers and reducing project lead times.
Speaking from Washington, D.C., Tom Hamlin, SWERA Project Manager, said
the project is now under evaluation and will be seeking support to service
requests from renewable energy development programmes in other developing
“SWERA has clearly demonstrated that the modest amounts needed
to support renewable energy assessments can significantly change the way
countries pursue their energy goals”, he said.
The countries where SWERA has carried out surveys to date are: Bangladesh,
Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras,
Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka.
According to Mr. Toepfer, SWERA is a good example of international cooperation
that can produce a range of positive environmental and social outcomes.
“In the case of renewable energy”, he concludes. “Knowledge
is literally power.”
Summary on SWERA: http://swera.unep.net.
Information on UNEP Energy: http://www.unep.fr/en/branches/energy.htm.
For more information, please contact: Jim Sniffen, UNEP Information Officer,
New York, tel.: 1 212 963-8094/8210, e-mail: email@example.com; or Robert
Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson in Europe, tel.: 33 1 4437-7613, mobile: 33
6 2272 5842,
Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP’s Division of Communications
and Public Information, tel.: 254 2 623292, mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, tel.:
254 2 623084, mobile: 0733 632755; e-mail: email@example.com.
SWERA Partner Institutions include: The Energy Resources Institute TERI
(India); National Renewable Energy Laboratory (USA); Risoe National Laboratory
(Denmark); State University of New York/Albany (USA); UNEP Global Resource
Information Database GRID/Sioux Falls, South Dakota (USA); National Institute
for Space Research -- INPE (Brazil); German Technical Cooperation Agency
GTZ, German Aerospace Centre DLR; Brazilian Wind Energy Centre CBEE, Universidade
Federal de Santa Catarina (Brazil); Chinese Renewable Energy Industry
Association; University of Dhaka (Bangladesh); Centre for Energy Studies
and AEPC (Nepal); National Engineering Research and Development Centre
(Sri Lanka); Ministry of Mines and Energy (Ghana); Ministry of Energy
(Kenya); Ethiopian Rural Energy Development Centre Energia y Minas (Guatemala);
Ministerio del Energia (Nicaragua); Ministerio de Recursos Naturales y
Ambiente (Honduras); University of Central America (El Salvador); Agencia
de Ciencia y Tecnologia (Cuba); Natural Resources Canada -- RETScreen
Renewable Energy in the Americas (OAS); National Aeronautics and Space