Kenya to build Africa’s biggest windfarm

To date, only North African countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have harnessed wind power for commercial purposes on any meaningful scale on the continent.

Besides the Turkana project, which is being backed by the African Development Bank, private investors have proposed establishing a second windfarm near Naivasha.

In the Ngong Hills, Vestas, a Danish company has started putting up six 50m turbines which will add 5.1 MW to the national grid from August. The work started in July with another dozen turbines to be added at the site in the next few years. 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.

This week, Kenya’s first six windmills went online, each adding 850 kilowatts of clean, renewable power to Kenya’s national grid. If this project is successful, hundreds more windmills will follow.

Wind farms have long been a staple of power grids across Europe, but Kenya’s is the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Others are planned in countries such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania.

An ambitious project of 365 windmills is in the works for the arid region of northern Kenya. The US$870 million (Dh3.1bn) project backed by the African Development Bank is expected to provide Kenya with 30 per cent of its electricity once it is online in 2012.

In Kenya, only one fifth of the country’s 40 million people have access to electricity, but demand is rapidly increasing. Each of the six windmills atop the Ngong Hills will be able to supply power to 1,000 houses, according to Francis Makabwa, an engineer with KenGen, the Kenyan power company that has commissioned the project.

Kenya’s power mix is currently among the most sustainable in the world with 70 per cent coming from hydroelectric dams on the country’s many rivers. The rest comes from steam-fed geothermal energy and diesel-fired power plants.

Deforestation of key watersheds and a crippling drought have created a disaster for Kenya’s hydroelectric industry. Low water levels caused Kenya’s largest dam to shut down earlier this year, and residents face regular power cuts due to erratic supply.

Wind farms have a very low impact on the environment as they do not use any fuel and emit no pollution. The wind farm in the Ngong Hills was met with little resistance.

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.

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. 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.

Lake Turkana Wind Power

Lake Turkana Wind Power consortium (LTWP) is poised to provide 300 MW of clean power to Kenya’s national electricity grid by taking advantage of a unique wind resource in Northwest Kenya near Lake Turkana. Using the latest wind turbine technology LTWP can provide reliable and continuous clean power to satisfy up to 30% of Kenya’s current total installed power.

Producing Electricity

LTWP will construct a "wind farm" consisting of 353 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850 KW. The total foreseen power generated by the initial phase of this wind farm is expected to start production in June 2011 and reach full production of 300 MW by July 2012, adding 30% or more to the total existing installed capacity available in Kenya. Wind turbine technology has seen recent rapid improvement with the development of turbines such as the Vestas V52 that is the design standard selected by LTWP.

Essential Logistics

The wind farm site is remote and presents a significant logistics challenge. Wind turbines and their propeller blades are large pieces of equipment that need special handling. LTWP commissioned Mammoet to conduct a route survey in Kenya to assess the state of the existing infrastructure and to determine the investments required to transport the turbines, equipment and materials to the site.

The study determined that some 200 km of road needed to be upgraded, and several bridges strengthened in order to transport the wind turbines to the site from the port in Mombasa. These costs are included in the financial model.

Connecting to the National Grid

Forecast power generated by the wind farm connects to the existing Kenya national grid. A comprehensive and detailed survey of the Kenyan electricity and high tension grid network by Schicon bvba, in consultation with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) and the Kenya Ministry of Energy, determined that 400 km of transmission lines are needed to connect to the national grid at the optimal point. Forecast completion of connection to the national grid is by June 2010. The KPLC has confirmed its interest to enter into a power purchase agreement with LTWP.

Environmental Impact

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by LTWP is completed. Kenya’s environmental authority, the National Environmental Monitoring Authority (NEMA), must approve the EIA as a prerequisite to project implementation.

The EIA is based on Kenya’s latest environmental guidelines and the most recent World Bank safeguard policies and guidelines plus appropriate Danish and Dutch guidelines. The project is forecast to reduce carbon emissions by 16 million tons, thus gaining valuable carbon credits. NEMA approval is anticipated by December 2008.

The Renewable Energy Resource

Meteorologists describe the Turkana channel as the valley between the Kenya highlands and the Ethiopian highlands. This channel helps form the "Turkana low level jet." Strong winds exist throughout this channel with speeds decreasing where the channel is wider.

Two distinct jet streams have been identified; these combine in Marsabit into a single very high wind low-level jet. The Turkana channel is ultimately responsible for the consistent predictable winds found on the Southeastern shores of Lake Turkana where the project is located.

These winds, known locally as the upepo, were first described by the Austrian Count Teleki and his assistant Lt. Ludwig von Hohnel. Von Hohnel wrote in 1888 about this area where "No living creature shared the gloomy solitude with us: and as far as our glass could reach there was nothing to be seen but desert-desert everywhere. To all this was added scorching heat, and the ceaseless buffeting of the sand-laden wind…"

In 1964 John Hillaby wrote in his book "Journey to the Jade Sea", referring to the very location selected for the project, that the "wind began to rise at dawn until at times it had some of the skull-wrinkling intensity of a scream."

Thus is described the long-known and now valuable renewable energy resource that LTWP will utilize. More specifically, the German Wind Energy Institute – DEWI conducted confirmatory on-site wind measurement at the locations selected for construction of the wind turbines.

DEWI has been taking systematic wind speed measurements on site since the 1st of December-2006, and these reliably indicate an average monthly wind speed of 11 meters per second. These results are among the best DEWI has ever encountered and can be compared to "proven reserves" in the hydrocarbon industry.


Marsabit County Council have granted LTWP a 99 year Lease Agreement on 150,000 acres (66,000 ha). This parcel of land is situated to take full advantage of the Turkana low level jet stream that is complemented by the unique topographical features on the site.

Unique to the site are Mt. Kulal to the North and Mt. Nyiru to the South that act to produce a venturi effect further accelerating the winds across the proposed location where the multiple wind turbines are to be located.

Overall the site is characterized by extremely low rainfall that sustains sparse vegetation on a barren rocky volcanic soil. Indigenous nomadic populations utilize the area and the impact of the project on them is addressed in the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The Consortium

Anset Africa Ltd.

This was founded in 2000, and is predominantly a Project Development/Management company and has been involved in projects in the field of solid waste management, sustainable energy (biogas), road construction,tourism, telecommunications and humanitarian assistance. The Regional Representative of ANSET AFRICA Ltd. is Mr. Christopher Staubo.

Mr. Harry Wassenaar

Harry has been active in the wind energy sector since 1991 and realized his first windturbine in 1993. He was the founder and first chairman of the Vereniging van Windturbine Eigenaren IJsselmeerpolders (VWIJ). In addition, he has been a board member of the former Dutch wind energy association (NEWIN).

Mr. Henk Hutting

Henk has been active in Wind Energy since 1982 developing the very first wind park in The Netherlands, he brings with him a vast experience in this field. He has been directly involved in the management team of some leading wind farms in the Netherlands and in South America.

In 1987 he was instrumental in creating the first Wind Consultancy Team, KEMA. He was a consultant for numerous wind Energy projects around the world and was a Wind Energy researcher for 10 years. In 2003 he moved to a wind farm development company, WinWind, as CEO. Here he developed the largest wind farm in the Netherlands, 44MW, he then founded a wind energy development company in the UK called Breeze. He later sold the company to Econcern.

In 2007 he founded his own wind energy development company, Hutting Windenergie B.V. with this he developed the next biggest wind farm in the Netherlands, 63MWwhich started construction in June 2007. He is now also a shareholder and partner in LTWP.

Mr. W. Dolleman

Dolleman is a Dutchman who is a Kenyan resident since 1981 is an independent entrepreneur. Mr. Dolleman is co-owner of AgriFresh Ltd., a company that grows fresh vegetables and exports the same ‘ready for shelf’ to the United Kingdom and other European markets. AgriFresh Ltd. employs 1900 employees. Mr Ed. Schieke

Schieke is an experienced and qualified Electrical engineer. Ir. Schieke has been active in various bodies active in the field of energy and energy systems, such as the commission "netkosten" VSDB (Vereniging Directeuren Stroom Distributie bedrijven), commission "decentrale opwekking" VDEN, board member at NV EZH (at present Eon), member programme commission VEGIN, commissioner for NETHENCO BV, commissioner for GCI BV (Gas Constructions International) and commissioner for TEMO BV.

Mr. John Thiongo Mwangi

Thiongo is of Kenyan Nationalty, he is an entrepreneur and a well known personality in Kenya, he has a long experience in the steel pipe manufacturing industry.

Mr. Kasper Paardekooper

Kasper has a legal background, specialised in energy legislation. Since the completion of his law study at the Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen (KUN) in 1991, he has worked as registrar at the court of justice and the appeal court of justice in Arnhem. Since 1999, he has been a lawyer with CMS Derks Star Busmann, specialised in energy and real estate affairs.

In this capacity, he has been involved in the development of approximately 35 wind projects in the Netherlands (both on shore and off shore) He is a board member of the Dutch wind energy association (NWEA).


This is a company that develops and operates wind energy projects. The founding partners, Mr. Harry Wassenaar and Mr. Kasper Paardekooper have been active in this sector since 1991 and 1999 respectively. At present the company operates 5 windturbine projects in The Netherlands, which were realised by the founders of KP&P before its formal establishment in 2005.


Overview of Wind Energy Resource in Kenya

Wind energy is more cost effective than PV for both grid connected and isolated systems. Wind power installations cost 3.5 times less per Watt than PV installations and operate for 12-18 hours at good sites as opposed to 5-6hrs for PV systems.

Wind Energy Resource Potential and Distribution

The Equatorial areas are assumed to have poor to medium wind resource. This could be a general pattern for Kenya. However some topography specifics (channelling and hill effects due to the presence of the Rift Valley and various mountain and highland areas) have endowed Kenya with some excellent wind regime areas.

The North West of the country (Marsabit and Turkana districts) and the edges of the Rift Valley are the two large windiest areas (average wind speeds above 9m/s at 50 m high). The coast is also a place of interest though the wind resource is expected to be lower (about 5-7 m/s at 50 m high). Many other local mountain spots offer good wind conditions. Due to monsoon influence, some seasonal variations on wind resource are expected (low winds between May and August in Southern Kenya).

It is expected that about 25% of the country is compatible with current wind technology. The main issue is the limited knowledge on the Kenya wind resource. The meteorological station data are quite unreliable while modern measurement campaigns have started recently when investigating wind park locations.

Kenya’s wind resource is determined from wind speed data from meteorological stations. The Department has 35 stations spread all over the country. Information gathered is not adequate to give detailed resolutions due to sparse station network.

There is significant potential to use wind energy for grid connected wind farms, isolated grids (through wind-diesel hybrid systems) and off-grid community electricity and water pumping.

Use of wind turbines or wind pumps in Kenya is marginal. The current installed capacity of wind turbines is 750kW; 150kW of which are small isolated wind turbines and 600kW of medium grid connected wind turbines; 2 at Ngong Hills and 1 in Marsabit. There are plans underway to develop a 10-15 MW wind farm in Kinangop. An average of 80-100 small wind turbines (400W) have been installed to date, often as part of a Photovoltaic (PV)-Wind hybrid system with battery storage.

Wind pumps are more common than wind turbines, 2 local companies manufacture and install wind pumps. To date installations are in the range of 300-350.

Challenges/Issues Affecting Exploitation of Wind Energy Resources in Kenya

*Site selection: Wind potential assessments are site specific and time consuming. This means that wind energy developments require a large initial investment for careful wind prospecting. Good equipment and quality work is needed, which is expensive.
*Updated wind resource map for Kenya: MoE has made some progress in this area. Suppliers of wind turbines often have to rely on meteorological data and customers’ observations to determine whether a site is viable. Such information is misleading and often leads to installation of poorly performing or non-performing systems. The SWERA (Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) Programme is also in the process of developing wind energy resource information for Kenya which will be made available free of charge through it’s website.
*Distance from transmission lines: Areas in the North that have the highest potential for wind energy generation are too far from the nearest transmission lines making grid connection uneconomical.

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.

Neighbouring country Tanzania has also commenced plans to generate around 100MW of power from two projects in the central Singida region, while Ethiopia has commissioned a 120MW farm in Tigray.

It is hoped the developments will spur other countries around the continent to take advantage of sustainable forms of energy and in the process, help to reduce the effects of climate change.

According to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, CO2 emissions in Africa reached 291 million metric tonnes of carbon in 2006.