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Economy

Line row delays cheap wind power

Lake Turkana Wind Power Project
A substation for the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Marsabit County. PHOTO | REUTERS 

Homes and businesses will wait longer for the cheaper electricity from Lake Turkana Wind Power Project following a disagreement on whether the transmission line linking the plant to the grid is ready for use.

Carlo van Wageningen, a director at Lake Turkana Wind Power, on Wednesday told the Business Daily that the firm will start injecting power into the grid once the two transmission lines running on the sides of the pylons are done.

This scuttles an earlier government plan to have the cheaper power injected into the grid through a single transmission line pending completion of the second line on the 428-kilometre network running from Marsabit to Narok.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter announced on September 4 that the transmission lines were complete and the firm will be ready to start injecting power into the grid within five days, which lapsed on Sunday.

“They are doing the right thing by putting up the other line which they can complete in a few days. Once that is done, we can start turning on our turbines at say 25 per day,” Mr Wageningen said in reference to Lake Turkana management’s demand for the twin lines.

The firm is Africa’s biggest wind power scheme made up of 365 turbines. Mr Keter yesterday maintained that the use of a single circuit or line would be sufficient to evacuate the power as the turbines are turned on one by one.

“The way the line is designed, the single circuit on one side can evacuate up to 600MW and because Lake Turkana power is 310MW, which will not be evacuated all at once, we can use the single side as we string the remaining part. All engineers have agreed on this,” Mr Keter said. But Lake Turkana Wind Power has declined to buy this proposal and insists on the two lines.

An engineer on site, who sought anonymity because he is not authorise to speak for the firm, said carrying the power on the single circuit would be “too risky and could damage the lines.

“One side of the wiring, which is complete, can evacuate the power but it was agreed among ourselves that stringing the other side while one is transmitting the power would be risky for people and the infrastructure as well”.

Injection of the cheaper power was expected to ease pressure on homes and businesses after electricity prices were increased by up to 52 per cent on August 1.

Electricity from the wind park will cost Sh8.7 per unit (8.5 US cents), which is in a similar price range as geothermal power, or three times cheaper than diesel-generated electricity.

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