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Kenya unveils continent's largest wind power farm

By Lucie Morangi in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-23 09:33

An aerial view of power-generating wind turbines at the Lake Turkana Wind Power project (LTWP) in Loiyangalani district, Marsabit county, northern Kenya, Sept 4, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Kenya has launched the largest wind power farm in Africa, setting the country on course to meet its goal of providing 100 percent green energy by 2020.

The wind farm, known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power, has 365 wind turbines with a capacity of 850 kilowatt each. The $680 million project is located on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, which is located in northern Kenya and borders Ethiopia. It lies in the Turkana corridor wind, dubbed "the windiest place on earth," that blows all year round.

The project, commissioned by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, will inject 310 megawatts into the national grid - enough to power up to 1 million homes. It will boost Kenya's electricity generating supply by 13 percent.

Rizwan Fazal, the executive director of the project, said the wind farm is the largest private sector investment in the country's history, occupying an area of about 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares).

The wind farm underpins Kenya's commitment to pursue clean sources of energy to address climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The East African nation has scaled up investments in renewable energy over the recent years. It is now among leading countries with an energy mix in which about 70 percent is provided by renewable sources. Geothermal energy provides the largest share.

According to the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report, Kenya ranks 9th in the world for its geothermal power generating capacity.

Kenyan economist Rajneesh Bhuee said the new wind farm is a major boost to the country's industrialization process. Kenyatta has vowed to expand the manufacturing sector.

"The electricity cost certainly plays a central role in determining the cost of production and is a major consideration to foreign investors. High energy costs have made Kenyan manufacturers less competitive in the region," said Bhuee.

Kenya's manufacturers have continued to dig deeper in their pockets. Industrial consumers pay $0.15 per kilowatt-hour. The cost of electricity for industrial consumers in Ethiopia is as low as $0.03. In Egypt, it is $0.06 and South Africa $0.09.

Besides paying high electricity costs, at least 18 million Kenyans still do not have access to electricity, according to a World Bank report.

Kenyatta, who announced plans to move the country to 100 percent green energy by 2020 during the Paris Peace Forum in France last year, said power from the wind farm would help the government reach its goals of ensuring housing, healthcare, jobs and food security to all citizens.

Kenya aims at achieving a universal access to electricity by 2022. An estimated 9 million Kenyan households have access to off-grid renewable energy and this figure is set to rise, according to the government.

The wind farm project had stayed idle for more than a year after a foreign company that had been contracted in 2011 to build a 428-kilometer line failed to deliver. A consortium of Chinese companies were awarded the $96 million contract to complete the transmission line.

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