Kenyan Wind Farm, Africa’s Largest, to Produce Lowest Cost Electricity

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Famous in anthropological circles as the site of some of the earliest hominid remains, northern Kenya’s Lake Turkana is set to be the site of Africa’s largest wind farm. Project plans call for a total of 365 wind turbines to be built there, generating enough clean, renewable, grid-connected electrical power to meet more than 20% of the country’s electricity needs. On top of that, the electricity will be sold to national utility Kenya Power for 20 years at 7.52 euro cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (~9.9 US cents), a rate that, along with Kenya’s geothermal power, is the lowest in the country, according to an AFP news report.

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“Here you can produce wind power at an interesting cost, without subsidies,” unlike the case in Europe, head of Dutch-led consortium Lake Turkana Wind Power Group Carlo Van Wageningen told AFP.

With a maximum rated capacity projected at 300 MW, Lake Turkana Wind Farm will be the largest in Africa. An initial 50 MW is scheduled to come on-line in mid-2014 with the balance due for commissioning in early 2015.

The 585 million euro (~$772 million) project also entails building a 428-kilometer (~265-mile) transmission line that will link the wind farm to the national grid, an element of the project that is being undertaken by Spain’s Isolux Corsan.

The consortium has signed a $756 million contract with Denmark’s Vestas A/S to supply 365 Vestas V52 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850 kW

Kenya’s Green Energy Drive

Kenyans pay more for electricity than residents of any other African country except Rwanda. Even so, power cuts and power losses are common. Given its substantial wind, geothermal and solar energy resources, renewable energy could go a long way to improving the situation, as well as yielding significant benefits in terms of economic development, jobs creation and environmental conservation and protection.

Kenya’s wind energy capacity could be as high as 3,000 MW, the UN Environment Programme estimates, more than double current national demand. Hydro power currently provides more than 60% of national electricity supply, though rainfall failures and environmental degradation of watersheds has reduced generation capacity.

The Kenyan government, with the backing of international development organizations, has launched an ambitious renewable energy development program. Key to achieving its green energy goals, Kenya is one of six pilot countries selected by the World Bank Group to benefit from the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries Program (SREP).

The World Bank Group’s SREP, an element of the Group’s Climate Investment Fund (CIF), has been established “to pilot and demonstrate the economic, social and environmental viability of low carbon development pathways in the energy sector by creating new economic opportunities and increasing energy access through the use of renewable energy.” The Kenya SREP’s initial capital allocation is $50 million, with as much as $60 million more available on a contingent basis to any of the six member countries.

It’s taken seven years for Lake Turkana Wind Power to get to the point where they are preparing to start construction. The company’s first step is to build road access to the isolated site for the transport of the equipment and materials, an endeavor that the group estimates will require 12,000 trips.

All that’s needed for construction to begin is the finalization of risk guarantees from two World Bank Group financial institutions, Ida (International Development Association) and Miga (Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency), according to AFP’s report.

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