Ethiopia, a country under a severe drought that relies on hydroelectric plants for the bulk of its power, is now turning to wind energy.

The Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. signed a deal Thursday with French wind turbine maker Vergnet, which plans to spend €210 million ($286 million) to build a 120-megawatt wind farm, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, Vergnet said.

The wind farm, which will consist of 120, 1-megawatt turbines, will increase the Ethiopian utility's generation capacity by 15 percent, the utility's general manager Meheret Debebe said (via AFP).

"This project will help us to fill the gap of hydrological risks we are facing in Ethiopia with the droughts," Debebe said.

Over 98 percent of the country's electricity comes from hydroelectric plants, according to the utility's Website. The International Energy Agency put the number at 99.9 percent in 2005, but said hydro made up 1.1 percent of the country's total energy, which includes natural gas, liquid fuels and wood for cooking and heating.

The national utility operates power plants and transmission lines and sells electricity to nearly 1.4 million customers throughout the country. The company has 814 megawatts of total power-generation capacity.

Vergnet plans to install the turbines over three years, with the first 30 delivered in 2009. The company has lined up a €165 million ($224.4 million) loan from BNP Paribas and €45 million ($61.2 million) from the French Development Agency for the project.

Vergnet, founded in 1988, posted €7.8 million ($10.6 million) in revenue for the first six months of this year, a 37.6 percent drop from €12.5 million ($17 million) in the same period in 2007. The company reported a net loss of €2 million ($2.7 million), compared with €0.4 million ($544,000) a year ago. 

The company also makes water-supply equipment.