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).
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid