Will Kenya Ever Get Its Giant Wind Farm?

The motto of the African Wind Energy Association is, “There is wind in Africa.” Wind, yes, but not much wind power.

That, however, could change in a big way in the next few years. Then again, maybe not.

Lake Turkana, Kenya (image via Shutterstock)

The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project – a 365-turbine, 300-megawatt proposal for the northeast part of Kenya – has been just around the corner for years. I found a news report on the Web from 2009 that said the project would begin producing power by June 2011.

That didn’t happen. They haven’t even started working on it.

The thing is, Kenya could really use this wind power. The whole continent could use wind power, but beyond South Africa, there aren’t a whole lot of projects in the works.

Check this out: when the Global Wind Energy Council [PDF] breaks down wind power by region, it doesn’t even give Africa its own line, so minuscule is the total. Instead, Africa gets lumped in with the Middle East. And even at that, the total is a mere 1,093 megawatts (MW) out of a 238,351 MW of global wind capacity as of the end of 2011 – and more than half of that was in Egypt!

The director of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, Chris Staubo, told AFP recently that when (when) it comes online, the wind farm will represent 20 percent of Kenya’s electricity production.

The holdup on the project is the financing, which, always complex to begin with on projects like this, is even hairier because the wind farm isn’t the only thing that needs to be built.

The developers need around 100 miles of road built in order to get materials to the site.

They need to build a couple of substations.

They need to build a town, more or less, in a very remote area, for the workforce.

And perhaps most of all, they need a giant transmission line to move the power south to near Nairobi and onto the national grid.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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