Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest wind farm in northern Kenya saved the country €126 million (sh15.7 billion) in reduced fuel imports in the first year of operation as the plant displaced expensive thermal power in the generation mix.
The developers of the 310MW Lake Turkana wind plant made the revelation in their first annual sustainability report covering the period between September 2018 when the plant started operating and December 2019.
“Our project contributed to the improvement of the government of Kenya’s balance of payments position by reducing fuel imports that are used in thermal projects for generation of electricity. In our first full year of operations, we displaced approximately €126 million of fuel imports, meaning that from a macroeconomic perspective, Kenya has saved on its current account,” reads the report.
The savings came after the wind park injected into the national grid about 1.8 billion kWh of clean, renewable power in the first year of operation, cutting the share of expensive fuel-generated electricity in the mix. At the same time, the developers revealed that the plant had shelled out €12.7 million in direct taxes to the Kenyan government since kicking into operation.
Further, it helped offset 0.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions following the cutback in fossil fuel power generation.
“This reduction will eventually result in a cash payment to the government of Kenya through sale of carbon credits. Proceeds from this sale will go towards community development projects to improve the livelihoods of communities along the Loiyangalani – Suswa transmission line that connects the wind Farm to the national grid,” said the developers – Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP).
Kenya relies on a mix of power sources – geothermal, hydropower, wind and thermal power. The coming on-stream of Lake Turkana wind power has seen the country sharply cut use of expensive thermal power, returning huge savings in hard currency previously used to import heavy fuel oil and diesel for thermal engines. The cutback has rendered several plants idle, but investors continue being paid capacity charges under the take-or-pay clause of their power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the national off-taker – Kenya Power.
Turkana wind farm sits on 40,000 acres of land in Kenya’s northern county of Marsabit – 600km from the capital Nairobi. It comprises 365 wind turbines with a total capacity of 310.25MW.
In the first year of operation through December 2019, it functioned at an average of 57 percent (capacity factor) of its maximum capacity, equivalent to 177MW.
The amount of power generated by a wind power plant is highly dependent on the speed and consistency of the wind. Capacity factors for most wind farms around the world average between 28-40 percent, meaning Kenya’s 57 percent is an impressive performance by global standards.
“Presently, we supply up to 30 percent of Kenya’s off-peak and up to 17 percent of peak demand,” the developers said in the report.
The wind farm has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power, providing for wholesale power sales to the utility firm for distribution to homes and businesses.
“We have a low-cost initial tariff of €0.0853 per kWh for the first 6 years of the PPA, which will further be adjusted downwards to €0.0752 per kWh for the remaining 14 years,” the report reads.
Lake Turkana wind farm is located in Sarima, between the foot slopes of Mt Kulal and the southeastern end of Lake Turkana. The area has unique geographical conditions in which daily temperature fluctuations generate strong predictable wind streams between Lake Turkana (with relatively constant temperature) and the desert hinterland (with steep temperature fluctuations). The project area covers a valley between Mt Kulal and Mt. Nyiro that effectively acts as a funnel in which the wind streams are accelerated to high speeds.