The East African region is rolling up its sleeves to embrace the use of renewable energy in the generation of electricity.  Various stakeholders have agreed that universal access to affordable energy could only be achieved through exploiting clean energy. The regional energy stakeholders are relying on modern energy to drive the regional economy, if efforts put by the various governments to exploit sources of renewable energy, the countries may soon emerge as global leaders in green energy. There are several developments in the region to tap into green energy; developments such as the Turkana Wind Power project and the Meru- Isiolo wind power corridor are some of the major projects that are set to drive the economy in the region.

The East African region is rolling up its sleeves to embrace the use of renewable energy in the generation of electricity.  Various stakeholders have agreed that universal access to affordable energy could only be achieved through exploiting clean energy. The regional energy stakeholders are relying on modern energy to drive the regional economy, if efforts put by the various governments to exploit sources of renewable energy, the countries may soon emerge as global leaders in green energy. There are several developments in the region to tap into green energy; developments such as the Turkana Wind Power project and the Meru- Isiolo wind power corridor are some of the major projects that are set to drive the economy in the region.

Kenya has recently experienced a surge in wind energy installation. It aims to generate close to 2,036 MW of wind power by the year 2030. The Officer-in-charge of the KenGen Ngong wind farm Plant attributes the fact that renewable energy is the greatest engine to be used in driving the economy in the region. KenGen wind farm is  one of the major operational plants in the country injecting close to 25MW to the national grid.

The wind farm which began with two turbines commissioned in 1993 as a donation from the Belgian government is in two phases and a third phase is in the pipeline. Eng.Onesmus Odhaimabo said, “The third phase will be commissioned in the year 2016 to enable the company meet the demands of the consumer.”The wind power plant complements the hydro-electrics power plants during the low rainy seasons as the megawatts are injected into the national grid. Eng. Odhiambo points out that Africa is the next frontier in clean energy especially Kenya due to its topography specifics which he cites is ideal in coming up with a good wind power plant. The Rift Valley and various mountain and highland areas have enabled Kenya have excellent wind regime areas.The Northwest of the country and edges of the Rift Valley such as the Ngong Hills are the two largest windiest areas. He further points out the various factors to be considered when setting a wind plant such as the adequacy of land, wind speed and the infrastructure.

However, funding is one of the major problems that wind power generation faces in the country. “Funding is the greatest challenge in the wind power plants, investors especially banks shy away from funding various projects,” said Eng. Onesmus Odhiambo. Currently, the power plant is being financed by a few investors from the European countries such  Spanish and Belgium government; though the Kenyan government has promised to fund the various power plants. For instance, the Belgium government funded the Ngong Phase 1 and the Spanish government funded the Ngong Phase II. Although the maintenance cost of the wind turbines is much cheaper compared to the maintenance of hydro  and solar generation plants, getting the turbines is a major challenge since they are imported from the European countries. Unfavorable policies is also another major hurdle, this is blocking private investors from investing in the energy sector. However during the East African Power Industry Convention recently the government of Kenya committed to using renewable energy to access modern energy and promised investors in the energy sector a favorable environment.

With the various technological advancements, such as using the automatic wind turbines, Kenya still lacks the capacity in designing turbines that are instrumental in wind generation. In addition to this, they are very few wind experts in the country.However, Eng.Odhiambo says the future of renewable energy is very optimistic and the fact that Universities are now training engineers on the various source of renewable energy. Universities such as Dedan Kimathi University and Jommo Kenyatta University have set programmes on energy courses. In turn KenGen has also offered internship programmes for the students.

Kenya has an installed capacity of over 2.00 GW.  Whilst about 57 per cent is hydro power, about 32per cent is thermal and the rest comprises of geothermal and emergency thermal power. Solar and wind power play a minor  role contributing less than 1per cent. However, hydropower has ranged from 38 -76 per cent of the generation mix due to poor rainfall.

Kenya still has  hurdles to jump, taking the baton from the developing countries; the country is setting up the environment for private investors with ongoing projects such as the Kipeto wind Power Plant and  the Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant. Apart from KenGen, construction of the Lake Turkana wind power plant is currently underway; the plant aims to provide 300MW of low-cost electrical power. With a projected cost of KES 70 billion. It would be the largest single private investment in Kenya’s history. The wind farm will further allow Kenya to eliminate its thermal generating plants, saving the country close to  KES 15.6 billion per year on imported fuel and further stimulating the Kenyan economy.

Leave a Reply