Near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, a low level jet stream that originates in the Indian Ocean blows across the land year round. That makes it the perfect place for wind turbines, and 365 of them with blades 55 meters long are now harvesting the energy contained in those winds to add to Kenya’s supply of electricity. It is the largest wind farm on the African continent, and is connected to Kenya’s utility grid by a 500 kilometer long transmission line.
It cost a total of $680 million to build, money raised by an international consortium that included a $200 million loan from the European Union. It represents the largest private investment in the history of Kenya.
Lake Turkana Wind Power was officially dedicated last week in a visit by Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, who told an audience, “Today, we again raise the bar for the continent as we unveil Africa’s single largest wind farm, the Lake Turkana Wind Project. Kenya is without doubt on course to be a global leader in renewable energy.”
The country derives 70% of its electricity from renewable sources, including geothermal and hydro. Its geothermal capacity is 9th largest in the world at 700 megawatts, according to CNN.
“It’s euphoric, you’re start what was a dream, putting together the largest private sector investment in the history of a country that comprises the largest wind farm on the continent. In an area that is what you see here. And finally, you are able to generate and produce the power,” Rizwan Fazal, executive director of the Lake Turkana Project, told Africa News.
Kenya plans to get 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2030, which makes it hard to understand why the government supported the construction of a 981 megawatt coal-fired generating station proposed by China. It would have been the first coal plant in the nation and was only blocked when a court ruled that project planners had not properly considered the environmental impact it would have on the land and the Kenyan people.
While the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, which will supply 13% of Kenya’s energy needs, is welcome news, there are still many parts of Kenya which do not have access to the utility grid and could benefit from distributed renewables to improve the standard of living in rural communities. This could create many employment opportunities for people living in those areas.
The path to a world where everyone has access to reliable renewable energy is a long and torturous one, with many twists and turns to the story.