16 October 2017

Africa's Largest Wind Power Plant Could Relocate From Kenya to Tanzania

Photo: Business Daily
(file photo).

Kenya's failure to approve the development of a 600MW offshore wind farm in Malindi, south-east of the country, has resulted in the developers considering moving the project to Tanzania.

Swedish firm, VR holding AB, which was set to construct Africa's largest wind power plant in Malindi, southeastern Kenya at a staggering Kshs. 253 Billion ($2.4 B);making it the most expensive private funded project in east Africa; has since changed it's plans.

According to Kenya's Business Daily the firm is moving the project to Tanzania, which shares the coastline with Kenya citing frustration to their efforts by Kenyan authorities. An executive at the company, Victoria Rikede said "We have opted to look for offshore solutions for Tanzania, Kenya is proving to be a very difficult place and besides the grid is too weak to absorb all the power produced and therefore mini-grids is the solution right now."

Kenyan officials are reported to have seen issues with the plants viability. The officials argued that the power plant would leave the country with excess power thus forcing consumers to pay billions annually for under utilized electricity. According to the official, it would defeat the purpose of clean cheap energy.

"The company was to give us a proposal for a smaller capacity plant of 50MW. They are yet to do so," said Isaac Kiva, the director of renewable energy at the ministry.

Kenya's renewable energy framework only provides for small and medium sized projects under the feed-in-tarrif (FiT) system which fixes prizes for wind and solar energy of up to a capacity of 50 megawatts. Therefore at a cost of 3.2 Million Euros or Kshs. 423 Million per megawatt the 600 megawatt offshore project would be too expensive.

In rejecting the mega power plant, the ministry considered a phased implementation that brings power on stream gradually, in tandem with growth in consumer demand. Kiva added: "Wind is an intermittent power source and, therefore, we cannot approve such a big plant in one location since it will come with huge costs tied to power supply reliability and transmission."

The only other renewable energy project above 50 megawatt in the country is the 310 megawatt project in Lake Turkana built at a cost of Kshs. 70 Billion. Although completed, the plant unfortunately is yet to be utilized due to a lack of a transmission line costing consumers approximately Kshs. 5.7 Billion in fines.

However, once operational the project is set to provide the 310 megawatts (MW) of renewable power to the Kenyan national grid. "It is the largest wind farm in Africa (and) it has 365 turbines," Carlo Van Wageningen, director and board member at Lake Turkana Wind Power, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. "We are hoping to soon see the transmission line completed so that Kenya will be able to benefit from this cheap source of power," he added.

Tanzania's acting commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Affairs, Innocent Luoga, told The Citizen that the investors had yet to officially communicate with his office. Luoga said: "When it happens, I am sure they will most definitely approach Tanesco [Tanzania Electric Supply Company], who will in turn inform us [the government] to plan a meeting."

The potential of wind power in terms of reducing carbon emissions is significant. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, in 2016 wind power helped the planet avoid more than 637 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Although Kenya may lose out on this project the country is still in the race towards cleaner sources of energy ranking third globally in geothermal energy capacity and number one in Africa by the Renewables Global Status report, 2017.

Meaning whichever of the two countries gets to house the project, the goal is ultimately to reduce carbon emissions even further, which is a win win for all parties involved.

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