Lake Turkana Wind Power: A Project for Change

The Lake Turkana Wind Power project is located in Loiyangalani District, Marsabit County, Kenya: a 12-hour drive from Nairobi. It is the largest renewable energy project in sub-Saharan Africa, taking up 40,000 acres of land. The Project is located between the foot slopes of Mt Kulal and the south-eastern end of Lake TurkanaIt where geographical conditions allow strong predictable wind streams between the Lake Turkana and the desert hinterland. The project area covers a valley between Mt Kulal and Mt. Nyiro that effectively acts as a funnel in which the wind streams are accelerated to high speeds. Construction began in 2014 and the estimated date of completion was June 2017.

The area comprises of 365 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850kW, and a high voltage substation that will be connected to the Kenyan national grid through an associated Transmission Line, which is being constructed by the Kenyan Government. Each turbine has a rotor diameter of 52 metres and a tower height of 44 metres.

The overall project received the greatest private investment ever with 14 financial institutions involved in this project. It was heavily invested in by private funds, 3 of these investors included the Nordic investment funds: Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd, KLP Norfund Investments AS and the Danish investment fund (IFU), for developing countries. A key factor in funding was a loan guarantee of 120 million Euro from Denmark; the overall project costing a total of 620 million Euro. The power produced was bought at a fixed price by Kenya Power (KPLC) over a 20-year period in accordance with the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the latter.

Several contractors have allowed the project to piece together: The Worley Parsons Project Management team were responsible for engineering and construction taking place throughout the site. Vestas Wind Turbines were the manufacturers and producers of the turbines, claiming to have 4000 of their turbines installed globally. that are still in use. The project installed an average of one full turbine a day for 365 days of the year and were all shipped from China. This was the largest quantity of wind turbines ever installed by their company. The company, Siemens oversaw the Collection Grid and Substation where power is generated for the turbines. RXPE installed Statcoms, which were to be the first of its kind in Kenya, and ensured power entering the national grid was clean. Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) constructed a double circuit 428km transmission line which delivers power to the national grid.

The project intends to benefit the eco-system through a renewable energy source. Once operational, the wind farm will provide 310MW of reliable, low cost energy to Kenya’s national grid, this is approximately 15% of the country’s installed capacity. Lake Turkana is predicted to offset well over 700,000 tons of C02 emissions per year. In 2014, the project was nominated ‘African Renewable Deal of the year’; those investing and involved in the project hope that this will serve as a future model in the aide of developing countries.

A key objective in the project’s completion was to work towards obtaining the Sustainable development goals. There are 17 parts to this goal and in particular, the project aims to work towards goal number 7: ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’, which will grant affordable and reliable access to modern energy supplies by 2030. This is a prime objective in such a poverty-struck environment where modern energy supplies are scarce due to the underdeveloped nature of the country.

The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP) has been keen on ensuring that the community benefits from the project through attaining this goal. Their eager interest in the community guided their commitment in forming the Winds of Change Foundation (WoC), which was formed in June 2015. The project has invested a portion of its operating revenues to WoC to improve the livelihoods of the communities in the Project area. Once the wind farm is operational, it is expected that LTWP through WoC will contribute about 10 Million Euro over the operational life of the Project, estimated at 20 years. WoC works in partnership with the county government, local leaders, NGO’s, CBO’s and government departments and it is anticipated that the planned social investment activities will enable LTWP and its project partners (Vestas, Siemens, SECO and Civicon) to also be included in this partnership. Woc’s main objectives are to: enhance employability within communities by aiding primary/secondary education and vocational training, increase access to health facilities by supporting both health education and health facilities and to provide accessible water to communities.

Currently, living conditions in places such as Kenya are poor, and communities are beginning to suffer the effects of global warming as the climate has altered, becoming more desert-like, and the presence of wildlife has decreased over the years. The human population also continues to grow, and in Africa, resources such as water have become limited. Hence, energy resources are ever more important in places such as Kenya. Towns such as Marsabit, located in the north of Kenya, have limited accessibility to prime resources such as Water. The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project has enabled the rehabilitation of water supply points to several communities in Kenya such as in Arge, Laga el Fereji, Gatab, Ntil, Lonjorin, Larachi, Sarima, Illaut and Olturot. The project in Arge alone has led to approximately 3,000 people now being able to access water within their village rather than having to complete a daily roundtrip of 28km to obtain water. WoC has further installed a solar powered reverse osmosis system in Sarima village, meaning that community members now, for the first time, have direct access to clean drinking water. In addition, WoC has established watering troughs in multiple parts of the constituency to ease provision of water to livestock. During the drought period of 2016/2017, WoC further intensified its water activities in Laisamis Constituency in order to support the communities through this difficult period.

Winds of Change foundation also realised the need for road restructure, especially from Laisamis to Serima where they laid down 208 kilometres of new road. This has eased the transportation of people, livestock, produce and other goods to markets across the region. In their promise to aid health, the Kurungu Health Centre was handed over to the community by Lake Turkana Wind Power Project to be converted into a maternity facility. Buriaramia health facility was also handed over to the community and was refurbished by the community’s government. WoC provided fridges, tables, chairs, and a delivery bed; simple luxuries that were previously unavailable to the community.

They have also introduced community events such as the HIV/ AIDS Awareness and Road Safety Campaigns to educate the community on these important subjects as well as the annual 10-kilometre run at Marsabit Lake Turkana Cultural Festival. The run involved members working on the project and those part of the community allowing the Winds of Change Foundation to be integrated and to become a part of the community. The Marsabit Lake Turkana Cultural Festival itself took place over 3 days where members of different communities gathered and were able to show-case their culture through activities such as singing, dancing, and wearing clothes and jewellery that reflected their culture.

Locals also gained employment with companies involved in the construction of the project. Many unskilled locals were even able to obtain employment, allowing them to not only to gain some money, but to acquire new skills. Well-educated locals have also been able to gain employment, those of which were often unemployed due to the lack of available jobs throughout Kenya. This employment was deemed to continue after completion of the project also. It is further anticipated that due to the production of cheap and affordable energy, this will attract businesses to Kenya, which will boost financial growth.

School and education have also benefited from the project, with solar systems being implanted, such that school children are now able to study until the evening, whereas previously, in schools such as Mount Kulal Girl’s Secondary School, there was no available lighting within the school and education was restricted to daytime hours only.

Organised events and aid within the community has made a mark in the local communities in Marsabit, bringing cultures together from different

countries and communities, and supplying jobs and education for the locals. Members of the region have reported that previously, they never received luxuries such as fresh water and electricity. The Winds of Change Foundation anticipate that their involvement and relationship within communities will continue and they wish to form a lasting bond throughout the future. They also plan to continue their efforts in developing the Kenyan economy which will allow continued employment for the locals, as well as sustained development of the economy.