Sustainable Energy

Wind power could transform this country

Anmar Frangoul | Special to

In the north east of Kenya, a vast renewable energy project is underway. When completed in 2017, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will look to provide Kenya's grid with 310 megawatts of renewable, cheap and reliable energy.

At 625 million euros ($692 million), the project is the biggest private investment in Kenya's history. The scale is huge as well: 365 wind turbines will be spread over a site of 40,000 acres and generate energy equivalent to roughly 20 percent of Kenya's, "current installed electricity generating capacity."

The location of the farm – which will be the largest in Africa – is key to its potential.

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"The wind there is very, very constant, it's always present, 24 hours a day – at different speeds of course," Carlo Van Wageningen, director of LTWP, told CNBC in a phone interview.

Van Wageningen went on to add that, "On average, we obtain 11.8 metres per second. Now, if you take a comparison with onshore wind farms in Europe, you're looking at a good wind site being about 7.5-8 metres a second at best."

It is hoped that the energy produced at Lake Turkana will benefit Kenya economically, too, with the project's energy tariff roughly 60 percent cheaper than thermal power plants, according to the LTWP website.

Increasing access to clean, reliable and sustainable energy in countries such as Kenya is crucial to their development. Yet according to the International Energy Agency, more than 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity, with over 95 percent of this number living in developing Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.

Initiatives such as Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) are looking to broaden sustainable energy access across the planet, stating that, "investing in renewable energy creates jobs, fosters economic growth, and improves energy security for countries that lack domestic fossil fuel resources."

Launched in 2011 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, goals for 2030 include, "doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix."

The World Bank formally joined SE4All in 2012, with its President, Jim Yong Kim, stating, "Ending poverty and ensuring sustainability are the defining challenges of our time. Energy is central to both of them."

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"We will be… the cheapest source of power along with geothermal power," Van Wageningen said, before going on to say that, "What makes it cheaper is the fact that we have so much wind."

According to the project's website, more than 560 local people are currently involved in its construction, while the project will contribute 22.7 million euros in taxes annually.

Van Wageningen said that Kenyan industry would also benefit from the project.

"Right now one of the biggest impediments for Kenya to be competitive in the export market – for any production that they have – is mainly due to the cost of energy," he said.

"By improving that cost you assist industrial development and… increase employment," he added.