Lake Turkana limbo extended to September

KENYA: Nearly a year after Africa's largest wind farm was due to start transmitting power to Kenya's grid, the 310MW Lake Turkana project remains unconnected.

Lake Turkana in Kenya, Africa's biggest wind farm at 310MW, is still waiting for grid connection
Lake Turkana in Kenya, Africa's biggest wind farm at 310MW, is still waiting for grid connection

Following changes of government, financial uncertainty and lengthy delays to the start of construction, the last of the 365 turbines was installed in June 2017, with grid connection and commercial operation confidently expected with a month or two.

But the 428km transmission line to distribute the site's power is still not completed, with the consumers footing the bill for the delays.

Contractor Isolux Corsán won a €142 million EPC contract to build the line in June 2011, but the contract was not signed until August 2014, and the company filed for bankruptcy three years later.

The hiatus left power from the Vestas V52-850kW turbines going untapped, and the project's developer, Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) in a precarious position.

LTWP — a consortium of Danish and African investment funds plus turbine supplier Vestas — has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with national utility Kenya Power & Lightning Company (KPLC).  But with no operating transmission line it has been unable to receive the agreed payment of £75.20/MWh.

This triggered a compensation clause written into the PPA with LTWP receiving in compensation what general manager Phylip Leferink described as a "rather sizeable amount of money". He did not disclose the specific amount but said it was sufficient to keep the consortium out of financial difficulties until the project can trasmit power.

In a statement, Robert Oimeke, director general of the Kenyan energy regulator, said that media reports of consumers paying an extra KES 1 billion (US$9.95 million) a month to compensate LTWP were "not true".

Energy consumers were due to foot the compensation bill from 1 June, but this has now been deferred until 1 September, while negotiations between the developer and the Kenyan government take place.

The national transmission operator (TSO), Ketraco, which awarded Isolux the original contract, has now taken responsibility for completing the high-voltage transmission line, the longest in Africa. It said it will be completed by 31 August, a claim supported by Oimeke, who said it was "on course".

LTWP's Leferink was less convinced when talking to Windpower Monthly. "We see a lot of activity. We flew past the line and they are clearly working very hard.

"But is the [31 August] deadline achieveable? I'm not entirely sure. The rainy season started very early this year and the working conditions and accessibility are not so go good."


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