Construction of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project at Loiyangalani in Marsabit County celebrated a long journey’s success and groundbreaking in July. Some had called the project a quixotic dream. Officially launched with an inauguration by President Uhuru Kenyatta in July, the project has a max capacity of 310 megawatts of sustainable power.
Located in a remote part of breathtaking Kenya, it is a private-sector flagship project of Vision 2030, a long-term development blueprint that intends to turn Kenya into a middle-income country with a quality of life known to more populated and urbanised parts of the world.
Initially, the local community near the lake with a surrounding area given to fierce winds was sure the plan was simply wazungu (white people) wanting to study the locals. However, it was far more than this.
“Wind power varies depending on the time of day,” said Mugo Kibati, chairman of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. “Your typical windfarm would have 25–35% utilisation capacity. Lake Turkana will be 62% utilisation capacity.”
Standard Digital‘s story “Viewing Lake Turkana Wind Power through Vision 2030 lens“
shares the belief that all Kenyans will benefit by this long-hoped for renewable energy endeavor. “The private sector’s role in Vision 2030 flagship projects is as, if not more, important as the government’s. This is because Vision 2030 is a lot more than just expanding our rail, roads, and other infrastructure networks – it is about a transformation of society in its entirety by triggering economic growth.”
It was in 2006 that Willem Dolleman, a Dutch entrepreneur and farmer resident in Kenya, and a friend (in the wind power industry) discussed the windy conditions in Lake Turkana. He approached Anset Africa since he already knew them as project developers.
The €623-million project is a historic moment for Kenya, as it is the largest private investment in Kenya’s history. This project has won several awards and was nominated as the “African Renewable Deal of the Year 2014” by Thomson Reuters Project Finance International.
The beautiful jade waters of Lake Turkana ringed by ochre red volcanic hills was an out-of-the-way corner of Kenya. Visited by very few annual fishermen, such as Dutchman Willem Dolleman. The rugged northern corner provided more than fish, with dramatic winds that denied the stability of a shelter such as a fisherman’s tent. The winds caused Dolleman to sleep in his car — perhaps he was grateful the winds did not sweep the car away, as it would the tent.
Dolleman’s trouble was finding a tour lodge, as they were hundreds of mile apart in that northern corner of Kenya. Somewhere to stay in a vastly underdeveloped area was the issue. “Willem constantly told us that someone had to do something to harness the incredible wind power he encountered in the area,” said Carlo van Wageningen, as quoted by The Guardian. Wageningen is a business partner to Dolleman, who is now taking part in a consortium that is constructing Africa’s largest wind farm.
“People really doubted when the initial teams came to the ground to explain what they were doing,” said Stakwel Yurenimo, a community leader who was one of the first to embrace the wind farm project and served as a liaison to the project team. “Nobody would buy or understand the idea that the plan was to establish wind turbines to generate power. No one has electricity here anyway, so most people told me that this was a plan by wazungu (white people) to conduct research on the locals and then leave.”
The Guardian reports some problems, not before found in the community. “Some representatives of local communities have alleged the project violates the community land rights of the locals.”
As well as the 204 km road linking the area to the nearest paved road planned to be built, as well as the construction of a 428 km transmission line to connect it to the national grid, there are other changes. The tasks of transition for the community shows the story of growing pains. Stephen Nakeno, a community leader, explained: “So many people have come in [to the site] looking for jobs. Many in the community also have new sources of income. We are seeing divorce rates going up. Venereal diseases that were unknown are now an issue. We need a permanent doctor stationed here.”
Not particular to place or any job requiring physical prowess, a woman has more of a struggle to become employed. Agnes Ngare Emase reported, “the contractors needed to break their habit of employing mostly young men and give more jobs to women.”
Many do appreciate the advantages due to the project. “This is an area that was completely forgotten,” said Stakwel Yurenimo. “The best thing is that the roads under construction will open up the place and bring in development, meaning children will have different options from their fathers and grandfathers.
Joshua Hill covered the last leg for CleanTechnica in December: “Vestas To Fulfil Order For Largest African Wind Farm.” Wind energy leader Vestas Wind Systems has announced that it has received an order to provide wind turbines for the 310 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Kenya, Africa — a project that Vestas claims will be the largest wind power project in Africa upon completion.”
We’ll keep you posted if more interesting information comes from this site.
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