East Africa will soon get its largest wind power project - the Lake Turkana Wind farm

Coal is being blown away by wind power

There probably could be no other way of revamping the energy sector than coming up with such a large project like LTWP, whose agenda of generating clean and low-cost power augments the desire around the world to cut down on carbon emissions. In fact, much of global society has already started championing the decrease of coal power usage, and African countries are following suit.  

Lake Turkana is expected to be the largest single private wind power project in the  Sub-Saharan region. It will signify the country's and region's big leap into renewables. Since there are no other projects in the region like it, I asked Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd whether the project will be revolutionary in mass power generation in the region, considering the traditional methods we have used to generate energy:

“It is revolutionary as it is the only wind energy plant of this size, and at 300mw installed capacity will, for the moment, make this the largest power generation plant in East Africa. It represents about 17% of Kenyas total installed capacity.” Carlo Van Wageningen, the Director of LTWP said today.  

The project will see utilization of the Turkana Corridor low level jet wind stream that is predictable and strong. Proponents say that the reaching of a financial close (in December last year) of this construction and engineering feat sends a compelling message to the global energy market that renewable energy can greatly aid the country's development.  

When it comes online, the wind farm will cut down carbon emissions by 16 million tons in its 20 years of operation/lifespan. It is registered under the Clean Development Mechanism and some of its revenue will include proceeds from the Certified Emission Reductions (credits). “It will save the atmosphere 760 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year for 20 years when compared with a fossil fuel power generation plant” Wageningen told Clean Leap.  

Reduction of reliance on expensive fossil fuels

Kenya, like much of sub-Sahara, relies on hydropower. Although there are other challenges that might have made the renewable energy from the project expensive, the government has negotiated for the cost of power to be lowered from the wind farm in order to cut down the cost to the final consumer. The project is also located in an area where substantial oil discoveries have been made and questions still remain on whether the final cost of power from the wind farm would see the project compete adequately with other low-cost energy sources. The director of LTWP has been quoted previously as saying that the project will be competitive as long as “crude oil doesnt go below $40 a barrel. In Africa you dont get government subsidies to build renewable-energy projects like you do in Europe,” he added, “here you can only do it because it makes financial sense.” 

The country has been spending about 55% of its energy budget on fuel imports for energy generation to meet local demand, and the result has been high-cost power. Through the LTWP project Kenya is hoping to reduce the import of petroleum for power generation. 

The cost of power currently stands at 2.51 Kenyan shillings per kilowatt per hour and a majority of Kenyans still rely on wood fuel and other biomass energy sources because they are either not hooked to the grid or the power is too expensive. The power project will generate enough electricity to serve 2.5 million Kenyans, and since the country's electricity demand has been growing, the project is timely. Kenya has complained of inconsistent power supply saying it affects business. Benson Muriithi, General Manager of Network Management at Kenya Power has said that the generation of more power from wind will “play an important role” in the country and will reduce the cost of power. In fact, it is expected that the project will contribute to reducing interruptions per 1,000 customers per month from 9 (recorded in January this year) to 2 by 2016 or 2017. The country is also in the East Africa Power Pool with arrangements to sell power to countries like Rwanda and Tanzania. 

Overreliance on wood energy generation sources has posed a challenge to Kenya's forests according to The African Climate, and deforestation is causing a lack of adequate rainfall, which in turn affects generation of hydropower. 

READ ON:  Environmental management initiatives at the LTWP site