Turkana wind power line set for October completion

Construction of the Turkana Wind Power substation in Laisamis Constituency, Marsabit County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Construction of the Turkana Wind Power substation in Laisamis Constituency, Marsabit County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

The construction of the Sh20.2 billion power line connecting Lake Turkana Wind Power project to the national grid will be completed in October, paving the way for electricity harvesting.

Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco), which is overseeing the construction, said it was racing against time after contractors committed to deliver by October.

"All engineering works have been done, as well as procurement and the installation of towers is ongoing. The line will be up and running by October,” Ketraco acting managing director Fernandes Barasa said in an interview.

The 428-kilometre high-voltage power line will transport electricity from the Lake Turkana wind power project to the national grid at Suswa substation in Narok.

The line had been hit by delays blamed on land compensation hiccups in the areas it traverses like Nyandarua, Laikipia and Marsabit. This has since been settled.

Electricity from the Marsabit-based wind farm in northern Kenya will cost Sh8.5 per unit (8.42 US cents) or half that from diesel generators.

Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd, the developer of the wind project, expects to commission the first 50 megawatts (MW) of wind power in September, as opposed to 90 MW as earlier announced.

The full 310 MW will be injected to the grid by July 2017. The company is set to commission turbines for the plant next month.

A site visit to the wind farm established ongoing construction of access roads to the remote area.

“This has provided jobs to up to 1,000 people from the surrounding areas,” said the company’s deputy general manager Caroline Ongeri. She said that the roads construction would cost Sh$36 million (Sh3.6 billion).

UK-based company Aldwych International is the single largest investor in the Sh70 billion wind project with a 30.7 per cent stake. Google has a 12.5 per cent stake after pumping in Sh4 billion last October.

The farm sits on 40,000 acres of land in an area that receives steady winds throughout the year. Lake Turkana Wind Power will sell electricity to Kenya Power at 8.42 US cents per unit (Sh8.5) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

This makes it the third cheapest power source in Kenya after geothermal energy at Sh7 per unit and hydropower which is the cheapest at Sh3 per unit.

Thermal generators are the most expensive at Sh18.

Kenya in 2013 set an ambitious target to inject additional 5,000 MW of cheaper electricity to the grid by 2017 from sources like geothermal and wind to accelerate economic growth.