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Kenya's Lake Turkana Wind Power eyes Sept 2016 for first output

by Reuters
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 16:58 GMT

Power-generating wind turbines are seen in Ngong hills, about 22 km southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi, Sept. 8, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

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Delayed project aims to start once transmission line is built linking remote northern region to national grid

* Kenya already relies heavily on renewables

* Power cuts in Kenya blamed for hurting business

* Lake Turkana region has "very predictable" winds

By Edmund Blair

LAKE TURKANA, Kenya, June 24 (Reuters) - Kenya's Lake Turkana Wind Power project aims to start supplying some electricity as early as September 2016, once a transmission line is built linking the remote northern region to the national grid, a director of the project said on Wednesday.

The 310 megawatt (MW) project, originally aimed for start-up in 2011, has been delayed in part because it was awaiting a 428-km high-voltage line linking the area. The transmission line was approved in August 2014 and will take about two years to build.

Carlo Van Wageningen, a director of Lake Turkana Wind Power, told Reuters production 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, would be in place by June or July 2017, he said, rivalling other big African wind schemes in Morocco and Egypt.

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

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

The project in the Lake Turkana area, lying in a corridor of land that receives steady winds throughout the year, is spread over 40,000 acres (162 sq km). But the company could build on a further 110,000 acres.

"If we used the same technology, we could have 1,000 MW," said Van Wageningen. "This corridor is constantly affected by winds. It is very predictable."

As a result, the load factor, a calculation of the average level at which installed capacity is used, will be about 62 percent, much higher than many European wind farms where load factors are usually around the 25 to 30 percent mark.

This means it can sell power to the Kenya Power Company more cheaply than many other nations.

The project has a 20-year deal to sell electricity at 7.52 euro cents per kilowatt/hour (kWh), while rates in Europe can be 11 to 14 euro cents per kWh, said Van Wageningen. "That is why they need a subsidy," he added.

"The problem here is logistics," he said, adding a 204-km road to the barren region was being upgraded, partly financed by the Dutch government.

Challenges in transporting turbines 1,200 km from Mombasa port to the Lake Turkana region meant those to be used in the project were smaller than some now built in Europe. (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by George Obulutsa/Mark Heinrich)

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