June 8, 2017 / 10:54 AM / a month ago

Lack of power lines delays sub-Saharan Africa's biggest wind farm

2 Min Read

Power-generating wind turbines are seen at the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) station in Ngong hills, about 22 km (14 miles) southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi, file.Thomas Mukoya

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The biggest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa is ready for launch but will remain idle until next year as Kenya's government has not yet installed the transmission lines needed to get the clean power to customers, the provider of the turbines said.

Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems installed 365 turbines at Lake Turkana in the hot desert north of the east African country in March, completing construction in less than a year and two months ahead of schedule.

The project, which the government says will produce around 300 megawatts (MW) of power, is located in one of Africa's windiest places. Costing 70 billion Kenyan shillings ($678 million), it is the country's largest single private investment and closely watched by investors looking for opportunities in African renewable energy. 

The wind farm had planned to begin producing power this month, but construction of the transmission line to the power grid, being built by state-run Kenya Transmission Company (KETRACO), has been delayed.

"The challenge is now to get the wind farms connected to the grid and that is indeed a project which is not with us," head of Vestas' Central European and sub-Saharan business Nils de Baar told Reuters in an interview at the Africa Energy Forum in Copenhagen.

"The expectation is that it will happen in early 2018," he said, adding that the project is Vestas' largest-ever in terms of the number of wind turbines being installed.

The 428 km powerline from Loiyangalani in northern Kenya to Suswa in the centre of the country was due to be completed by October last year, but demands for compensation from landowners along the route and other issues have delayed it.

Once in operation, the Turkana Lake wind farm is expected to provide 15 percent of Kenya's total electricity needs.

($1 = 103.2500 Kenyan shillings)

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; writing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, editing by David Evans

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