Vestas signs Africa's largest turbine deal

KENYA: Vestas has secured an order to supply the turbines for what is set to be Africa's largest wind project, the 310MW Lake Turkana development in Kenya.

The project will feature 850kW Vestas turbines
The project will feature 850kW Vestas turbines

The manufacturer will supply 365 V52-850kW turbines for installation on the project, which is due to be completed in 2017.

Vestas chief sales officer Juan Araluce explained the thinking behind the use of smaller turbines: "First there are the very high wind speeds of 11 m/s, which are very unique and have to do with the desert conditions so close to the lake.

"Also they will be very robust, and the small size helps with the logistical issues around the project. The port at Mombasa is 1,200 kilometres from the site, so it is hard to transport infrastructure to the site."

Vestas' involvement in the financing of the project was key to it winning the contract to supply the turbines, said Araluce.

"We contributed significantly from the beginning to structure the deal by bringing in the Danish Export Credit Agency as one of the major lenders, together with the Danish Investment Fund for Developing Countries," he said.

Vestas also took a minority shareholding in the project in order to attract other lenders. UK-based Aldwych International is the lead member of the Lake Turkana Wind Power consortium and will also oversee construction and operate the plant.

The project has faced major delays, with commissioning originally slated for 2011. Issues with financing and the removal of export guarantees from the Kenyan government pushed this date back significantly.

Vestas was originally named as the preferred turbine supplier for the project back in 2012, but bringing in investors has taken longer than anticpated.

"It has been a very complex exercise to finance the project, this has caused delays, but I don't see any reasons why the project should see any further delays as we are moving into the execution phase now," said Araluce.

Earlier this week, the consortium cleared the final financing hurdle, with the provision of a loan guarantee for the transmission system.

As part of the deal, Vestas will service the turbines for 15 years. The company said it will base an operations and maintenance team in Kenya to work on the project.

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