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Africa's Largest Sub-Saharan Wind Farm: Lake Turkana Starts Electricity Production

It is a symbolic project: although each of the 365 turbines has a comparatively low capacity of only 850 kW, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya is still Africa's largest wind farm south of the Sahara. The individual turbines are now being commissioned step by step.

Greetings from Africa (Image: Lake Turkana Wind Power)Greetings from Africa (Image: Lake Turkana Wind Power)

At regular intervals, the developers of the Lake Turkana wind farm report at Twitter on their progress in commissioning the wind farm in Kenya. Yesterday, 187 megawatts of clean energy were fed into the grid. Since the beginning of October, Vestas has been gradually commissioning the turbines - 365 in total. The project is to be completed by the end of the month when all power plants will feed electricity into the grid. The 310 MW project will then be the largest wind farm on the African continent south of the Sahara.

However, this is not the last large-scale wind project. Slowly more and more countries in Africa are discovering wind power as well as solar energy: In South Africa, the programme for the further expansion of wind power has just started again since a change of government, and in the North African countries, various larger projects have been underway for some time with international help.

All the more remarkable, however, is this project in Kenya, a state of 47 million inhabitants on the east coast of Africa. Here, still not all parts of the population have electricity yet. So far, the country has mainly relied on hydropower to expand its energy supply, but climate change is already leading to a declining water supply.

The project is also breaking records in other areas. To date, it is the largest privately financed investment project in Kenya. The wind farm is located in the middle of the wilderness of Marsabit in the north of the country, 600 kilometers from the capital Nairobi. In the Turkana Corridor, a low jet stream from the Indian Ocean provides an average wind speed of 11.4 meters per second. The project area comprises a valley between the Kulal and the Nyiro, which acts effectively as a funnel, accelerating wind currents to high speeds.

The wind farm covers an area of 40,000 acres (Photo: Lake Turkana Wind Power)

One of the biggest problems right from the start was the connection to the grid. The transmission lines first had to be laid in the wilderness. Nevertheless, there is a danger that the country's relatively small electricity grid could be overwhelmed with this amount of energy. "It would be imprudent to inject the whole 310 MW of wind power to the grid as that would destabilise the national grid, hence the phased approach," explains Rizwan Fazal, one of the directors of the operator Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd., to the blog Energysiren.

In the coming years until 2030, Kenya wants to increase its share of wind energy to over 2000 megawatts. Currently, works on further wind farms are already underway, but other renewable energy projects beside wind farms are also to be promoted: A share of 60 percent of the electricity mix is planned for 2020. Hopefully the grid will be able to keep up by then.

Katrin Radtke
wind farm, wind energy, Kenya, Lake Turkana, Africa, renewable energy, grid

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