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Economy

Turkana Wind power lines work on after Sh2bn land deal

President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a commemorative plaque during the ground breaking ceremony of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project last  week. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI
President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a commemorative plaque during the ground breaking ceremony of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project last week. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI 

A land compensation deal estimated at Sh2 billion has cleared the way for the construction of power lines that will connect Lake Turkana Wind Power project to the national grid as early as September 2016.

The 310 megawatt (MW) project, originally projected to start in 2011, has been delayed in part because it was awaiting a 428-km high-voltage line linking the area.

“We have finalised negotiations with the people who had to give up the land for putting up the line,” Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) managing director Joel Kiilu said in an interview.

“Any time from now the contractor will be breaking ground to install the line by August next year for evacuation of power starting September,” he said.

The high-voltage line will cost Sh17.5 billion and property owners ceding land for the project will share the Sh2 billion set aside for compensation.

The transmission line was approved in August 2014 and was initially scheduled to take about two years to build.

Carlo Van Wageningen, a director of Lake Turkana Wind Power, said production from what will be Africa’s largest wind power plant could start in September 2016 with up to 90 MW of capacity, “provided the transmission line is ready”.

The full 310 MW capacity, to be delivered by 365 wind turbines, should be in place by June or July 2017, he said, rivalling other big African wind schemes in Morocco and Egypt.

Mr Van Wageningen said construction of the plant started in the last quarter of 2014 

The project is in Marsabit County and spreads over 40,000 acres lying in a corridor of land that receives steady winds throughout the year. The project will cost Sh70 billion.

Lake Turkana Wind Power will sell electricity to Kenya Power at 8.42 US cents per unit (Sh8.2) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

This makes it the third cheapest power source in Kenya after geothermal energy at Sh6.8 per unit ($0.07) and hydropower which is the cheapest at Sh2.9 per unit ($0.03).

Thermal generators are the most expensive at Sh18.5 per unit ($0.19).

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

Kenyan businesses regularly complain that power cuts and unreliable supplies make them uncompetitive and hurt growth.

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