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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid