So, what has freshly caught fish and the fight against illiteracy got to do with a wind park?
The answer, which is literally blowing in the wind, is found under Kenya’s hot sun, close to the equator.
365 giant wind turbines are working non-stop and producing renewable energy to the Kenyan national grid. Approximately 15 per cent of the total power production today is delivered by the wind farm, Lake Turkana Wind Power.
Lake Turkana Wind Power is Africa’s largest wind farm to date, and it is also the largest private investment ever in Kenya. An astonishing amount of EUR 678 million is the price of the wind park in the remote Marsabit district.
In addition to the Danish wind turbine giant Vestas, the Danish Climate Investment Fund, managed by the Investment Fund for Developing Countries, IFU, as well as a number of Danish pension funds, foreign investors and development banks have financed the project.
When evaluating the year-long and complicated construction phase and the effects of the wind park, IFU’s CEO, Torben Huss, is more than satisfied with the fact that millions of Euros have been invested in the project.
”First and foremost, Lake Turkana Wind Power is delivering cheap and renewable energy as well as ensuring a large supply guarantee to millions of Kenyans thereby contributing to more sustainable development in the country”, said Torben Huss.
The wind is constantly blowing
Since last spring, the 310 MW wind park has produced power at full speed. An astonishing 150,000 MWh per month.
The Lake Turkana area has strong and stable winds of 11 s/m on average. In popular terms it means that the wind turbines are producing electricity 70 per cent of the time. This is almost twice as much as many of the European onshore wind parks, which normally produce power 30-40 per cent of the time due to changing winds.
The renewable energy from Lake Turkana has resulted in a considerable reduction in the production of oil-based electricity in Kenya. The price of a KWh from the new wind park is around 0,55 Danish kroner, which is half the price for power emanating from fossil energy sources.
“All in all, Kenya will save around 800 million Danish kroner on the electricity bill annually, and to this must be added the considerable reduction in CO2 emissions.”
Torben Huss, CEO, IFU
IFU’s CEO points to the fact that the wind park also contributes to the creation of thousands of jobs and more trade, and it drives the economic and social development in one of Africa’s poorest regions.
New road is a great improvement
This is where freshly caught fish and more children learning to read and write come into the picture.
The establishment of the wind park was conditioned on the construction of a 200 kilometre road. In a dry and arid area, an accessible road is a huge improvement which creates dynamics, transport and more local trade.
On behalf of a number of Nordic investors, the consultancy firm QBIS Consulting has conducted a study of the social and economic effects of the wind park project in Kenya.
”Apart from the sustainable and stable power supply to Kenya, there is no doubt that the improved road is the greatest asset in connection with Lake Turkana Wind Power. The road has already had noticeable effects for the local population.”
Thomas Westergaard-Kabelmann, partner in QBIS
Earlier on it would take a day or two to travel 200 kilometres on poor roads. Now it takes between two and four hours – depending on whether you travel by car or buy a ticket to one of the buses driving on a daily basis.
Fresh fish provide more purchasing power
The wind park is situated on sandy soil close to Lake Turkana, one of Africa’s biggest lakes. Here, local fishermen have caught and dried fish for decades and later sold the dried fish in markets in the larger cities.
Due to the reduced time of transport on the new road, the fishermen are now able to go to the markets and sell fresh fish on the same day as the fish are caught.
”The price for freshly caught fish is generally higher than for dried fish so the local fishermen now have the possibility to build a better business and earn more money. This will result in increased purchasing power which will affect the remaining society”, said Mette Dalgliesh from QBIS.
Assisted by the EU and NGOs, among others, present in the area, the road has encouraged the local fishing cooperatives to invest in new and bigger fishing vessels as well as in solar-driven freezers so they can freeze the catch with the purpose to sell it later.
Shortcut to health and education
The improved road also has potential to become a shortcut to better health and more education. According to a local traffic survey conducted by the local partner of QBIS Consulting, 19 percent of the current passengers on the public buses are nurses and teachers.
Health clinics and schools in remote districts such as Marsabit often have difficulties finding qualified staff since it can be both difficult and expensive to get there and since the areas are often regarded as less attractive places to live and work.
It is too early to conclude if more children have started attending school and if the health conditions have improved due to the Lake Turkana project and the road investment since this would require a more comprehensive study.
”We know from other studies that improved transport connections in remote areas can have a series of positive effects on health and education – e.g. it will enable children to get better access to education with a certified teacher or the local population can seek a health clinic with better trained staff.”
Mette Dalgliesh Olsen, senior communication & sustainability advisor and partner, QBIS
The wind park has however also encountered resistance from some of the local tribes. They have protested against the ruin of their traditional life and fear that they will lose land for their pasture livestock. A case of land rights is still running in a court in Kenya.
In the programme “Winds of Change”, the investors have committed themselves to show social responsibility. So far, more than 20 million Danish kroner have been spent on improving schools, healthcare and water supplies. Many initiatives to prepare the local population have been taken.
Furthermore, Vestas has organised courses in road safety and traffic regulations for several hundred local Kenyans in connection with the construction of the new road. For herders not used to heavy trucks driving at a speed of 80 – 90 kilometres per hour, this is vital information.
The local tribes have also been interviewed about their culture and economy in order to assist them in preparing for the new development.
Approximately 1,800 jobs were created in connection with the construction of the wind park, many of which were jobs performed by local craftsmen. This meant that more locals got full-time jobs with good wages compared to Kenyan standards for one or two years during the construction of the wind park.
When circus comes to town
However, when it comes to large development projects, there is a reverse side. Some of the locals have spent their wages on alcohol, the East African drug khat or on luxury items.
However, others have saved their money in order to pay for their children’s education or building a new house.
“Kenya does not differ from the rest of the world. When a big circus comes to town, things can happen. For a period of time a significant inflow of money will reach a poor area, and not everyone is capable of handling it. There will be jobs available for some and not for others, and a lot of new people will come to the local area with other customs and cultures. This may create new problems which did not exist before”, said Mette Dalgliesh Olsen.
Today, Lake Turkana Wind Power employs approximately 400 technicians, craftsmen, engineers and administrative staff of whom approximately 80 per cent are from the local area.
Wind park to create thousands of jobs
In addition to the effects on the local area around the wind park, the most important economic gain from Lake Turkana comes from the wind park’s contribution to a cheaper and more stable grid.
Kenya used to be a country hit by frequent power cuts, which stopped the industrial production. This has kept many foreign investors away.
”The stable power supply yields a higher productivity, and combined with the effects of cheaper power, this creates a big potential for higher growth and employment.”
According to the original calculations made by QBIS before the wind park was connected to Kenya’s power supply, a reduction in power failures of merely 12.5 per cent and in energy prices of 10 per cent will create more than 100,000 jobs in Kenya.
Today, there are signs that the potential could be even larger.
”It is too early to make any conclusions from Lake Turkana’s total effect on power failures and energy prices in Kenya, but since the park started to operate, there are promising indications that it will mean both lower electricity prices and a more stable power connection. Both facts can be of great importance to Kenya’s national economy eventually,” said Thomas Westergaard-Kabelmann.
Fully complies with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
IFU’s CEO Torben Huss says that the African wind farm has already fulfilled all expectations.
”Lake Turkana Wind in Kenya contributes both locally and nationally to more environmental-friendly and social development which is in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, stressing that IFU has a strategy to align all its commercial investments with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
By Gitte Redder, journalist
FACTS: The story about the African wind power adventure Lake Turkana Wind Power
- In 2007 a group of international investors came up with the idea of establishing a wind park close to the large desert lake Turkana.
- Twelve years later 365 gigantic wind turbines from Vestas are producing power to Kenya’s population of approx. 48 million people.
- After having encountered some initial problems and delays in connecting turbines to the national grid, the 310 MW wind park is now running at full speed. On average, the turbines deliver around 150,000 megawatt hours per month corresponding to approx. 15 per cent of Kenya’s total electricity production.
- The strong and stable wind in the area of Lake Turkana blows at 11 m/s and has a so-called capacity factor of 70 per cent. In Europe, onshore wind parks only have a capacity factor of 30 to 40 per cent.
- The number of power cuts in Kenya has been reduced considerably since the turbines started to run at full speed.
- The production of fossil-based energy is more than halved from around 230,000 MW hours in January 2018 to around 100,000 MW hours in January 2019. Consequently, the CO2 emissions have been considerably reduced.
- The renewable energy is cheaper. The price per kilowatt hour from the wind park is approx. 0.55 Danish kroner. This is half the price of electricity from fossil fuels.
- Lake Turkana Wind Power is Africa’s largest and most expensive wind park to date. The financing of EUR 678 million has been raised by a consortium of international investors and lenders. Together with Norway and Finland, Denmark has played an important part in the realisation of the wind adventure.
- The Danish Climate Investment Fund (DCIF), which manages money from Danish pension funds and Danish development aid to be invested in renewable energy projects in developing countries, owns equity worth 87 million Danish kroner in Lake Turkana Wind Power.
- Denmark’s Export Credit Agency (EKF) has also contributed to the realisation of this large investment by providing a billion kroner guarantee. Furthermore, the wind turbine producer Vestas has also invested equity in Lake Turkana.
- The investors have committed themselves to show social responsibility through the “Winds of Change” programme. So far, more than EUR 2.6 million have been invested in schools, health and water. It is expected that Lake Turkana Wind Power will invest another EUR 10 million in the area during the next 20 years.
- Furthermore, Vestas has formed its own programme for social investments in the area which covers 10,000 km2 or approximately one fourth of Denmark.