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Cheaper power beckons as Sh70B wind energy project nears completion


NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenya’s quest for cheaper power is beckoning with Sh70 billion Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project expected in the second quarter of 2016.

Speaking during the Power in East Africa Summit, Phylip Leferink, and General Manager of the project said he is happy with the progress in the transportation of turbines to the site from the port of Mombasa and by between May and June the firm will be ready to add more power to the national grid.

He said once the transmission lines are ready, the project may kick off a month earlier in April.

“We have installed over 200 turbines in the last six months, out of the wind 365 turbines needed on completion,” he said.

"The 310 MW turbines, which are attached to 52 meter rotors are hoisted on towers stretching up to 44 meters high across the arid Sarima Village, in Marsabit County. Once completed, the project will be the largest wind farm in Africa," said Mr Leferink.

The wind farm aims to provide reliable, low cost wind power to Kenya's national grid, equivalent to approximately 18 per cent of the country's current installed electricity generating capacity.

The firm said the turbines are already being tested for power generation.

The wind farm is expected to be completed by June 2017, with a turbine being installed daily.

"By managing to hoist these turbines within the stipulated time, the team has not only achieved a technological feat, but also navigated through a logistical challenge of getting all the turbines here in Loiyangalani, which is 1200 KM from the port of Mombasa," he said.

But delays on completion of transmission lines connecting Lake Turkana Wind Power project to the national grid are expected to complicate the firm's plan in supplying electricity to the grid. 

The transmission line was expected to be completed in October, but the state run Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) is behind schedule, after it was hit by compensation feud with the communities along the line. 

Taxpayers will pay Sh700 million fine monthly through their power bills should the government fail to construct a power line by January.

But the wind company says it is still on course. The assembly of the turbines began in March 2016 after the civil works on the foundations of the first batch of turbines had been completed.

The various parts, including the blades were transported by road to the site from the port of Mombasa.

The turbine technology is of Danish origin but the production of the turbines, blades and towers was done in the Vestas manufacturing facilities in China.

"We are impressed with the progress that we have made so far; we are working with our project partners to ensure that we complete this wind farm within the stipulated time. This will ensure that we will soon be able to play a key role in Kenya's energy supply and make a significant contribution towards the country's economic growth," Leferink explained.

The firm targets to inject the first 90 MW of wind power into the national grid by the second quarter of 2017.

When operating at full capacity, Lake Turkana Wind Power will add 310 MW of renewable generation capacity to Kenya's grid. This output from the wind farm will be enough to power more than 1 million Kenyan households.

The Marsabit-based wind firm has a 20-year deal to sell electricity at Sh8.6 per kilowatt/hour (kWh) to Kenya Power.

The farm sits on 40,000 acres of land in an area that receives steady winds throughout the year.

The power will be evacuated and transmitted to the national grid through a double circuit 400kV, 438km transmission line that is currently being constructed by Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco).

Kenya, which relies heavily on renewables such as geothermal and hydro-power, aims to expand installed capacity to about 6,700 MW by 2017, up from 1,700 MW in 2013.