News / Africa

    Africa's Future, Blowing in the Wind

    Wind turbines at Kenya Electricity Generating Company, Ngong hills, Sept. 2010 (file photo).
    Wind turbines at Kenya Electricity Generating Company, Ngong hills, Sept. 2010 (file photo).

    It all began almost two decades ago, when Willem Dolleman got annoyed during his Lake Turkana vacation in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. He wanted to fish and set up his tent, but the ever-blowing gales kept undermining his efforts. Despite his frustration, Dolleman thought it could be interesting to harness all of this natural power.

    Fast forward to mid-2000, when oil prices were shooting through the roof. Dolleman discussed his idea with colleagues who eventually formed the Lake Turkana Wind Power project.

    With construction slated to begin in March, it will be sub-Saharan Africa's largest wind-power project, expected to contribute up to one-fifth of Kenya's power-generating capacity, one of the biggest contributions by wind power to a national grid anywhere in the world.

    Best wind on the continent

    Lake Turkana Wind Power chairman Carlo Van Wageningen says that the wind, when measured on the original site, had an average speed of 13 meters per second, dwarfing the average European wind farm speeds of about 7.5 meters per second.

    "The problem is that there is no wind turbine producer in the world that produces a wind turbine that can sustain such high averages," says Van Wageningen. "So we had to move a little bit from that site to try and identify a site where we had less wind, because we had too much of it."

    The new location offers more manageable wind speeds of around 11.5 meters per second, which, upon project completion, will be captured by 365 turbines. Slated to begin construction around March 2012, the fully operational farm will be expected to provide 300 megawatts to Kenya’s national grid, about 20 percent of the country’s installed power-generating capacity.

    Wageningen calls the site one of the best on the continent. Winds from the Indian Ocean are attracted to the low-pressure Sahara Desert. That low-level jet stream blows through what is known as the Turkana Corridor, created by a valley between two mountain ranges.

    "It is very predictable wind," he says. "If you look at our graphs on the wind patterns we have, you’ll find that at 10 o’clock in the morning or at 6 o’clock in the evening of every day, the wind is pretty much the same for every day."

    Entire region coming online

    Sub-Saharan Africa is just beginning to come on board with wind power, although its contributions to the world supply remain negligible. According to the World Wind Energy Association, Africa accounted for only 0.4 percent of new wind installations in 2010.

    The association says Africa’s total installed capacity in 2010 was 906 megawatts out of a world total of more than 193,000 megawatts.

    That number is set to rise, however, with the project in Kenya and another one in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government recently launched six wind power projects and one geothermal power plant in a bid to become Africa's top green power exporter. Ethiopian officials say the seven projects are expected to be capable of generating 1,015 megawatts of electricity.

    Great expectations

    According to Hermann Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association, a Johannesburg non-governmental organization, there are also high hopes that South Africa will develop its own wind resources.

    "South Africa has the shorelines in the west, in the east, and in the south, and there are four harbors," he says, explaining that the country has plenty of wind, sun and wave activity to justify substantial green-energy investment. "Factories where components can be manufactured locally are already in existence."

    But Oelsner is quick to note that Africa's numerous infrastructure concerns, from poor roads to off-the-grid development sites, are a red flag to prospective investors.

    Although energy demand is growing across the continent, with average annual economic growth rates of five to eight percent, Oelsner thinks Africa can be more creative in finding and using alternative energy sources.

    "Africa could actually be leading the rest of the world in applying renewable energy in a smaller way; rural areas, etcetera, and using biofuels as well," he says.

    He says it is crucial that this happen, as humans are using up the world's natural resources.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora