African wind farm will help electricity-deficient Kenyans power up affordably

» By | Published 04 Apr 2012

Anyone who has ever visited Africa and witnessed the continent’s still grinding poverty and its poor access to electricity will be delighted by recent news that work should begin later this year on a 300-MW wind farm in Kenya.

Officials with the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP) said 365 wind turbines would eventually be erected in an arid region in the east African nation, which has a population of about 43 million people.

The €582 million project, which will become the largest wind farm on the African continent, has been in development for seven years, officials noted.

“All contracts are in place,” said Carlo Van Wegeningen, head of LTWP.

Construction will start after World Bank member institutions finalise the risk guarantees, and the wind farm is expected to begin producing energy in 2014 and reach its full capacity of 300 megawatts — equal to about 20% of Kenya’s current installed electricity-generating capacity — the following year.

The proposed wind farm lies between 450m at the shore of Lake Turkana and 2,300m above sea level at the top of Mt. Kulal, and the site has some of the best wind resources in Africa, with consistent wind speeds averaging 11 metres/second and from the same direction year round.

LTWP also said the consortium for the Kenyan project — which is expected to become the largest single private investment in the nation’s history — has entered into a contract to sell the electricity to Kenya Power at a cost of less than $0.10 per kilowatt hour, making it the country’s cheapest energy source, next to geothermal energy.

The African Development Bank will arrange loans to cover 70% of the project cost, with the remaining 30% from private investment funds and co-developers. The project also includes upgrading an existing road and constructing a transmission line to deliver LTWP electricity to the national grid.

The new wind farm will lower the cost of power, reduce the capacity deficit and play a significant role in the stabilisation of the power situation in the country, according to the LTWP, and Kenya will also save money on reduced foreign heavy fuel oil imports.

Statistics compiled by the Global Wind Energy Council show that Africa, had 1,093 MW of installed wind energy at the end of last year. Egypt led the continent with 550 MW of wind capacity, the statistics said, with Morocco in second place at 291 MW.

By my reckoning, projects like the new Lake Turkana wind farm demonstrate the benefits wind energy can provide to a global community requiring ever-increasing amounts of emissions-free green electricity at affordable prices.