Kenya set in motion the construction of Africa’s biggest wind power farm this week, near Laisamis, 550km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
Known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, the wind farm site covers 40,000 acres (162km2), which will be powered by the ‘Turkana Corridorwind.’ It is a low-level jet stream originating from the Indian Ocean and blows all year round.
The project will consist of 365 turbines and expected to achieve 68% load capacity factor, which will make it the most efficient wind power farm in the world.
It is one part of Kenya’s ambitious project to add 5,000 MW of power on the national grid in the next three years. Like many African countries Kenya has been primarily dependent on hydro and fossil fuels but wind energy is expected to insulate the country’s power tariff by providing a low cost and consistent power source.
Once the wind farm is complete, it is expected to generate about 20% of the country’s power.Kenya Power, a government entity, has signed an agreement to buy the power produced at a fixed price over a 20-year period so as to make electricity accessible to a majority of Kenyans.
Unlike many new construction initiatives in Africa in the last decade which have been funded by the Chinese, a consortium of investors under the auspices of the European Union are financing this $690 million project with the African Development Bank as the lead arranger.
The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will surpass Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco, which is currently Africa’s biggest wind farm with 131 turbines. It will also be larger than Ashegoda power generating complex in neighboring Ethiopia, which opened in October 2013.
Wind energy is already boosting economic development in South Africa. The country has five wind farms already in full operation and several large-scale wind farms currently under construction.
Africa is on a fast track to tap its wind power potential, as more than two-thirds of the continent’s population is without electricity, and more than 85% of those, living in rural areas lack access. But this dynamic is changing. Africa is urbanizing faster than most regions of the world and projected to become 56% urban by 2050.