Kenya to Build Africa’s Largest Wind Farm
Kenya will soon have Africa’s largest wind farm, an ambitious project with 365 giant wind turbines, on more than 160,000 acres of desert around Lake Turkana, at a cost of an estimated $880 million. The Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project, backed by a Dutch consortium, will have a capacity of 300 MW, which represents 25% of Kenya’s current installed power.
By comparison, though the U.S. harnesses roughly 28,000 MW through wind power, that represents less than 1.5% of the country’s installed power. The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center (735 MW) in Texas is the world’s largest wind farm.
In developing countries, the long-term potential of renewable energies has massive economic, political and social implications. In a continent such as Africa, rife with conflict, poverty and drought, cultivating sun, wind, hyrdo and geo-thermal technologies could be one key step in achieving some stability- and in tackling the issue of climate change.
As Xan Rice explains in a recent piece in The Guardian, fewer than one-in-five Kenyans has access to electricity, but demand is rising quickly. Kenya’s electricity is already green by global standards- nearly 75% of the state power company’s installed capacity comes from hydropower and a further 11% from geo-thermal plants- but drought and erratic weather patterns threaten the reliability of hydropower. Kenya hopes to add 500 MW of geo-thermal and 800 MW of wind energy to the grid within the next five years.
Kenya is one of a handful of African nations with wind energy ambitions. Morocco, Ethiopia and Tanzania are all exploring the potential of wind power. South Africa is another country looking to harness wind. Rice writes, “in March, South Africa, whose heavy reliance on coal makes its electricity the second most greenhouse-gas intensive in the world, became the first African country to announce a feed-in tariff for wind power, whereby customers generating electricity receive a cash payment for selling that power to the grid.”
The paradox is that developing countries are often the places that could benefit most from clean, sustainable (green & cheap) energy technology, but the initial cost barrier remains an issue. As Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN’s Environment Programme, points out, “Kenya’s natural fuel should come from the wind, hot underground rock and the sun, whose potential has barely even been considered,” said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme. “After the initial capital costs this energy is free.”