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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Africa's biggest wind farm

Alternative Energy reports the some of the African regions experience extremes of temperature. The extreme temperatures also generate extreme winds and therefore wind farms have great potential in Africa. Although blessed with one of the highest wind velocities in the world and fiercest exposures to sun, most African countries have been slow on getting on to the alternative power band wagon.

Morocco and Egypt have been making some strides towards harnessing wind power on commercial scales. Saharan countries Kenya and Ethiopia too are trying to bridge the enormous gap between demand and supply by tapping into wind energy. Ethiopia has commissioned a £190m, 120MW farm in Tigray region, representing 15% of the current electricity capacity. It intends to build several more projects like this. Tanzania has announced plans to generate at least 100MW of power from two projects in the central Singida region, more than 10% of the country’s current supply. To encourage wind power generate and reduce its dependence on coal-generated energy, South Africa has announce a feed-in tariff for wind power: people contributing to the grid by generating wind energy get paid. It is the first African country to do so.

Now some 365 giant wind turbines will be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya to create the biggest wind farm in Africa. Once completed — tentatively in 2012 — the £533 million project, backed by the African Development Bank, will have a capacity of 300 MW, a quarter of Kenya’s current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world. For the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, the German consortium working on it has leased 66,000 hectares of the world’s largest permanent desert lake. The hot wind here consistently blows throughout the year through the channel between the Kenyan and Ethiopian highlands.

A good thing about such projects is that after the setup cost the energy is almost free.

The project of course has its share of problems. Transporting turbines to the remote site of Loiyangalani is going to take time and effort. The site is nearly 480 km north of Nairobi. In order to make trucks ply the roads and bridges will need to be mended. Then there are security issues: even the local tribesmen casually carry Kalashnikovs.