Gitson Energy yet to firm up commitment to Kenyan wind project

KENYA: Kenya's second wind power project may take longer than the one year initially envisaged to bring its operations on board, despite local media reports that the project was progressing.

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The $690 million 300MW wind power project in Bubisa, in the Marsabit district of northern Kenya was expected to start generating electricity in June 2011, reaching full capacity by 2012. It would be the country's second wind farm, after the $720 million 300MW project by the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) consortium.

But Gitson Energy, the developer behind the Bubisa project, has not made the necessary commitments to either Kenya's power distributor, the transmission system operator (TSO) or to the government. Gitson Energy is said to be owned by Kenyans living abroad, though its corporate structure and true ownership has yet to be made public.

Although Isaac Kiva, the principal superintending engineer in charge of the Kenyan government's renewable energy department, confirmed having received a proposal from Gitson Energy in June for a wind farm, the ministry has to wait for at least seven months before giving final approval for the project while the company carries out a feasibility study.

Gitson Energy managing director Michael Nderitu said in Nairobi recently that the company has engaged the services of renewable energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan. Asked to confirm this, GL Garrad Hassan did not reply by the time Windpower Monthly went to press.

Gitson Energy, which has promised to construct the wind farm on a turn-key basis to eliminate delays and enhance quality, has yet to make a concrete agreement on a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), the country's sole electricity distributor, according to KPLC's communications officer Kevin Sang.

And contrary to earlier reports in the Kenyan media that Gitson Energy had struck a tentative agreement with the country's TSO, officials at the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) say they are waiting for detailed information from the company before they can commit to constructing a 200-kilometre transmission line from the site.

That line would be linked to the 428-kilometre 400kV line to be constructed by LTWP. It will run from Loiyangalani, where the 300MW wind farm is to be sited, to Suswa, the nearest point to the national grid, which is about 100 kilometres from the capital Nairobi. However, no agreement has been reached between the two wind power developers on the sharing of the transmission line.

Earlier, Gitson CEO James Gitau had indicated that the company had "received funding and equity proposals from potential strategic partners", including US-based Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

But an Ex-Im Bank spokesman says: "We have no official record concerning Gitson Energy and have committed no funds to such a project." As Windpower Monthly went to press OPIC had not responded to a request to comment.

Gitson communications director Cyrus Thairu says that the company has financial commitments from "some entities", and will release details at a later date.

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