Kenya embraces renewable energy

The opening of a wind farm in the Lake Turkana district of Kenya could be a win for women, here's why.

With a fossil fuel divestment movement that represents 2.6trillion dollars in investment gathering pace, alternative energy sources are being considered by various governments more seriously now than ever. Huge projects using solar, wind and hydro energy are being launched all over the world.

One of them is the wind farm project in Kenya, which will cover an area of 162 km^2 using 365 wind turbines and, in addition to providing the country with clean, renewable energy, will connect one of the most remote and marginalised parts of the country to the national grid.

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When Willem Dolleman and his partners brought forward the idea of establishing a wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana - the largest desert lake in the world - which is partly located in the Loyiangalani district in Kenya, most government officials dismissed it, because the Loyiangalani district is regarded as one of the most remote and marginalised areas of Kenya. It's 600km away from the capital and paved roads, or infrastructure for that matter, are nowhere to be found.

Lake Turkana : Wikipedia

However, research was slowly gathered for the project, which began to gain momentum as of 2004 when oil prices rose tremendously in the country. Since then, the Kenyan government has been looking into alternative energy sources. So, the help of two leading Dutch experts in the field of wind energy, Mr. Hutting and Mr. Wassenaar, was solicited and they soon found the ideal spot between Mount Kulal and Mount Njiru. The wind there has an average speed of 11.8 m/s, which the experts say is wind developers dream ! The wind in this region is also very predictable : it flows in a constant direction and that at consistent speeds. This means that the wind could potentially generate power twice as efficiently as many wind farms in Europe – a 62% utilisation capacity vs. 25-30% for most European wind farms.

The project also brings many advantages for the residents on the Lake Turkana district. The $600'000 – $700'000 community development budget will provide the region with water and electricity. This will provide much-needed respite to the drought-stricken farmers and local residents The project will also bring employment opportunities and a permanent doctor. On top of all that, a 204km road will link the area to the nearest paved road and a 428km transmission line will link it to the national grid.

Image: Chris Willaims & Maria Davis

The project is a win from the women of the area. In many developing nations the job of sourcing food and water falls to the women on the family. Access to a safe, reliable water source frees up time for women and children alike.

Girls under 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the responsible family member for fetching water, with 64% of households relying on women to get the family's water when there is no water source in the home. This takes valuable time away from educational opportunities. However, even if girls make it to school over half of the developing world's primary schools don't have access to water and sanitation facilities. Without toilets, girls often drop out at puberty. This has a trickle on effect as research has shown that for every 10% increase in women's literacy, a country's whole economy can grow by up to 0.3%

Image: Chris Willaims & Maria Davis

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Saida Vdauweraert Guest Writer (Youth) Suggest an article Send us an email

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