Lake Turkana, a patch of blue in the North West of Kenya—an oasis in one of the hottest and least forgiving places in the world—has a superpower. The moon-like landscape to the side of the lake is a spectacular natural wind tunnel, providing optimum conditions for the generation of quality wind power.
For Kenya, a country that has made the ambitious pledge to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2020, this is a priceless asset. And this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled a huge windfarm in the area, filled with 365 turbines set to generate 310MW of renewable energy to the national grid. This is equivalent to almost a fifth of the country’s energy needs.
“Today we again raise the bar for the continent as we unveil Africa´s single largest windfarm,” Kenyatta commented. “Kenya is without a doubt on course to become a world leader in renewable energy.”
The project cost a whopping $680 million, made up of a $200 million loan from the EU and funding from a consortium of European and African companies. The windmills were manufactured by Danish company Vestas and transported 1,200 km overland from the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
“It is euphoric,” commented Rizwan Fazal, executive director of the windfarm project, to Africa News. “You start with 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.
“And finally, you are able to generate and produce the power.”
To complete the project, the country invested in a wide-ranging infrastructure initiative—upgrading 200 km of road to allow trucks to travel to the site—and new roads to shorten a journey that used to take days.
Although the windmills were installed in March 2017, it took until late 2018 to connect them to the grid because of problems acquiring land and financing the transmission line.
The Kenyan government’s investment in the project—and repeated promises to invest solely in renewable energy—stand in stark contrast to its other energy projects, including stalled plans to open a new coal fire plant.
Overall, the creators hope that it sends a strong signal about Kenya being open for more renewable infrastructure projects.