El parque contempla la instalación de 360 aerogeneradores, de 850 kilovatios cada uno. Los fabricará la empresa Vestas Wind Systems, de Dinamarca, un país pionero en eólica. No obstante, para que la red eléctrica pueda asumir este aumento de la generación de electricidad, las autoridades reconocen que será necesario renovar las infraestructuras eléctricas del país.
Se construirá en varias etapas. El parque eólico empezará su producción de electricidad en 2011 y estará a su capacidad completa en el año 2012. Los costes totales del proyecto son de unos 760 millones de dólares, de los cuales el 30% serán financiados por el Banco de Desarrollo de África.
Aunque por el momento sólo se planean 300 megavatios, un portavoz de la compañía indicó que es posible hacer una expansión una vez que crezca la capacidad de transmisión.
La capacidad instalada de Kenia para producir electricidad es de sólo 1.200 MW, y crece a una velocidad de 8% al año.
Si la planta cumple con lo prometido, sería capaz de cubrir un 30% de las necesidades de electricidad del país. La instalación, que costará unos 760 millones de dólares, cuenta con una importante financiación del gobierno nacional y con la ayuda del Banco Africano de Desarrollo, banco multinacional de los 53 países africanos miembros y que está financiado por 24 países europeos, americanos y asiáticos.
El tendido de transmisión eléctrica será de 426 kilómetros, llegando desde Loiyangalani a Suswa en el suroeste de Kenia. De allí la electricidad generada se volcará a la red eléctrica general. El tendido tendrá capacidad para transmitir 1.000 MW, de los cuales, por el momento, la red eléctrica nacional de Kenia solo puede absorber unos 400 MW.
Si bien hay otras compañías que están barajando las posibilidades eólicas de zonas como Ngong Hills ( en las afueras de Nairobi) o Kinangop, Turkana Wind Power es la única que ya firmado un acuerdo con el gobierno nacional, según Chris Staubo, portavoz de la empresa.
Kenia obtiene su electricidad mediante presas hidroeléctricas, que se ven afectadas por las sequías periódicas, por lo que ha decidido empezar a buscar fuentes alternativas, como la eólica.
África apenas ha desarrollado la energía eólica: en todo el continente sólo había a 1 de enero de 2009 un total de 570 megavatios, repartidos básicamente entre Egipto (365 MW), Marruecos (134 MW) y Túnez (54 MW), con pequeños parques en Suráfrica, Cabo Verde y Nigeria.
Actualmente hay otros tres proyectos eólicos en marcha en Kenia. Etiopía podría inaugurar dentro de muy poco otro gran parque eólico en el África oriental gracias a un acuerdo firmado conjuntamente con la empresa francesa Vergnet. El acuerdo preve la construcción y puesta en funcionamiento de un parque eólico de 120 MW en dos años y medio.
Tanzania calcula hacerlo este año o en 2010 si logra superar los problemas logísticos que supone hacer llegar las palas de los aerogeneradores.
Kenya to build Africa’s biggest windfarm
With surging demand for power and blackouts common across the continent, Africa is looking to solar, wind and geothermal technologies to meet its energy needs
One of the hottest places in the world is set to become the site of Africa’s most ambitious venture in the battle against global warming.
Some 365 giant wind turbines are to be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya – used as a backdrop for the film The Constant Gardener – creating the biggest windfarm on the continent. When complete in 2012, the £533m project will have a capacity of 300MW, a quarter of Kenya’s current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world.
Until now, only north African countries such as Morocco and Egypt have harnessed wind power for commercial purposes on any real scale on the continent. But projects are now beginning to bloom south of the Sahara as governments realise that harnessing the vast wind potential can efficiently meet a surging demand for electricity and ending blackouts.
Already Ethiopia has commissioned a £190m, 120 MW farm in Tigray region, representing 15% of the current electricity capacity, and intends to build several more. Tanzania has announced plans to generate at least 100MW of power from two projects in the central Singida region, more than 10% of the country’s current supply. 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.
Kenya is trying to lead the way. Besides the Turkana project, which is being backed by the African Development Bank, private investors have proposed establishing a second windfarm near Naivasha, the well-known tourist town. And in the Ngong hills near Nairobi, the Maasai herders and elite long-distance athletes used to braving the frigid winds along the escarpment already have towering company: six 50m turbines from the Danish company Vestas that were erected last month and will add 5.1MW to the national grid from August. Another dozen turbines will be added at the site in the next few years.
Christopher Maende, an engineer from the state power company KenGen, which is running the Ngong farm and testing 14 other wind sites across the country, said local residents and herders were initially worried that noise from the turbines would scare the animals.
"Now they are coming to admire the beauty of these machines," he said.
Kenya’s electricity is already very green by global standards. Nearly three-quarters of KenGen’s installed capacity comes from hydropower, and a further 11% from geothermal plants, which tap into the hot rocks a mile beneath the Rift Valley to release steam to power turbines.
Currently fewer than one-in-five Kenyans has access to electricity but demand is rising quickly, particularly in rural areas and from businesses. At the same time, increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and the destruction of key water catchment areas have affected hydroelectricity output. Low water levels caused the country’s largest hydropower dam to be shut down last month.
As a short-term measure KenGen is relying on imported fossil fuels, such as coal and diesel. But within five years the government wants to drastically reduce the reliance on hydro by adding 500 MW of geothermal power and 800 MW of wind energy to the grid.
Not only are they far greener options than coal or diesel, but the country’s favourable geology and meteorology make them cheaper alternatives over time. The possibility of selling carbon credits to companies in the industrialised world is an added financial advantage.
"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."
The Dutch consortium behind the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project has leased 66,000 hectares of land on the eastern edge of the world’s largest permanent desert lake. The volcanic soil is scoured by hot winds that blow consistently year round through the channel between the Kenyan and Ethiopian highlands.
According to LTWP, which has an agreement to sell its electricity to the Kenya Power & Lighting Company, the average wind speed is 11metres per second, akin to "proven reserves" in the oil sector, said Carlo Van Wageningen, chairman of the company.
"We believe that this site is one of the best in the world for wind," he said. If the project succeeds, the company estimates that there is the potential for the farm to generate a further 2,700 MW of power, some of which could be exported.
First, however, there are huge logistical obstacles to overcome. The remote site of Loiyangalani is nearly 300 miles north of Nairobi. Transporting the turbines will require several thousand truck journeys, as well as the improvement of bridges and roads along the way. Security is also an issue as the region is known bandit country, and many locals are armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
LTWP also has to construct a 266-mile transmission line and several substations to connect the windfarm to the national grid. It has promised to provide electricity to the closest local towns, currently powered by generators.
The greening of Africa
At the end of 2008, Africa’s installed wind power capacity was only 593 MW. But that is set to change fast. Egypt has declared plans to have 7,200 MW of wind electricity by 2020, meeting 12% of the country’s energy needs. Morocco has a 15% target over the same period. South Africa and Kenya have not announced such long-term goals, but with power shortages and wind potential of up to 60,000 MW and 30,000 MW respectively, local projects are expected to boom.
With the carbon credit market proving strong incentives for investment other types of renewable energy are also set to take off. Kenya is planning to quickly expanding its geothermal capacity, and neighbouring Rift Valley countries up to Djibouti are examining their own potential. As technology improves and costs fall, solar will also enter the mix. Germany has already publicised plans to develop a €400bn solar park in the Sahara.
"Ultimately for Africa solar is the answer, although [costs mean] we may still be decades away," said Herman Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association.
Below are other energy projects in east Africa.
* Kenya plans to spend $8 billion on 2,000 MW by 2013 — 500 MW geothermal, 600 MW of clean coal, 800 MW from wind turbines, 30-50 MW generated as a bi-product of sugar manufacture and 30 MW hydroelectricity. Some other confirmed energy projects are:
* Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Power plans to produce 300 MW of electricity by 2012. It invited construction tenders for a 428-km (266-mile) power line and four substations.
* Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) plans a fuel-powered plant for 120 MW by 2010.
* KenGen is putting up wind capacity for 5.1 MW in Nairobi. . It also plans to build a $700 million coal-fired plant for 300 MW with a joint venture partner holding 60 percent.
* Athi River Mining to construct a 29 MW coal-fired plant for $50 million by December 2011.
* China’s Sinohydro are building a $65 million 21 MW hydropower plant in Sondu Miriu for KenGen.
* Kenya plans to double the capacity of its Mombasa-Eldoret oil pipeline to 880,000 litres per hour and to extend the pipeline past Eldoret to Uganda by end 2010.
* Kenya Power & Lighting Company is looking to install three 60-80 MW heavy fuel oil-fired power stations.
* Mumias Sugar has a 51 percent stake in a $370 million project on the coast to produce 23 million litres of ethanol. Environmental groups and herders have opposed the plan.
* China’s Sinohydro and the Ethiopian Electric Power Authority have signed a 1.9 billion euro ($2.70 billion) deal for two hydroelectric dams for 2,000 MW. The deal brings the number of dams under construction in Ethiopia to seven with an aggregate total capacity of more than 5,000 MW.
* Canada’s Artumas Group plans a 300 MW natural gas-powered project in southern Tanzania for $700 million. The government wants to build over 500 km of high-voltage lines to link the plant to the national grid.
* Tanzania intends to construct a 400 MW coal plant by 2012 for $1.2 billion.
* The state-run utility means to spend $33 million on a 134 km high voltage line.
* British explorer Heritage Oil expects oil production to start in 2010.
* Uganda expects two hydropower plants — Bujagali with a capacity of 250 MW and Karuma Falls with 700 MW — to begin production of electricity by the end of 2010.
* Kampala is mulling over whether to build a large refinery for its nascent oil industry — already estimated at reserves of two billion barrels — or to construct a smaller one.
* The nation has budgeted around 1 trillion shillings ($475 million) in 2009/10 for its transport sector.
* Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have a joint gas project for 200 MW in Lake Kivu. They estimate total reserves at 55 billion cubic metres of gas, which has the potential to produce around 700 MW over at least 50 years.
* Rwanda has signed a $325 million investment deal with ContourGlobal for a 100 MW natural gas extraction and electricity generation facility.
* Rwanda plans a further 100 MW project by a consortium led by Kenya’s Industrial Promotion Services, the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank.
* The World Bank intends to loan Rwanda $70 million to expand its national electricity grid.
* Rwanda plans a micro-hydro generation scheme ranging from 5 KW to 3 MW projects at more than 300 potential sites.
* Burundi plans two hydropower dams on its border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo for a total 410 MW by 2018 and another 60 MW project on its border with Tanzania due to start by 2016.
* It is also working on two hydro projects, due to be completed in early 2010, to add 15.85 MW to its national grid, which will be lengthened to 5,000 km by 2012 from 3,300 km.