Kenya to launch Africa’s biggest wind farm

The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya, lying in a natural corridor at the edge of the Rift Valley that has been dubbed ‘the windiest place on earth.’ (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Kenya to launch Africa’s biggest wind farm

  • Turbines specially engineered to handle the fierce gusts of northern Kenya’s Turkana County

LAKE TURKANA: Kenya is to launch Africa’s biggest wind power plant, a mammoth project in a gusty stretch of remote wilderness that now provides nearly a fifth of the country’s energy needs.
The $680-million project, a sprawling 365-turbine wind farm on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana at Loiyangalani will deliver 310 megawatts of renewable power into the national grid of East Africa’s most dynamic economy.
The largest private investment in Kenya’s history, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project was beset with delays and took nearly a decade to rise from the arid landscape 600 kilometers (372 miles) north of Nairobi.
But now the Turkana project, lying in a natural corridor dubbed “the windiest place on earth,” will harness this endless power at low cost, officials say.
“It has been an incredible journey. Clearly (this is) a very historic day,” Rizwan Fazal, the executive director of the Lake Turkana Power Project said ahead of the opening ceremony. “It sends a signal Kenya is ripe for projects.”
The wind energy scheme, far more ambitious in scale than rivals elsewhere on the continent, has been closely watched as a case study of investing in renewables in Africa, where demand for energy is soaring as economies grow and populations swell.
In Kenya — which relies heavily on hydropower and geothermal energy — power supply is unreliable and costly, hindering business as energy-intensive sectors such as manufacturing look to take off.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously committed to 100 percent renewable energy for Kenya by 2020 — a pledge the government has been accused of betraying with plans to build a coal-fired power plant off the coast at Lamu.
That project — deemed unnecessary by experts — has been stalled by legal challenges.

FASTFACT

The 365-turbine wind farm will deliver 310 megawatts of renewable power.

The Lake Turkana wind plant, connected through a 428-kilometer power line to the national grid in Suswa, is now generating upwards of 15 percent of Kenya’s entire installed electricity capacity.
The windmills, manufactured by Danish company Vestas, had to be brought one-by-one overland from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, some 1,200 kilometers to the east. In addition, over 200 kilometers of road leading to the site had to be upgraded.
The nearly-50 meter turbines were engineered to handle the fierce gusts that tear through the “Turkana Corridor,” a wind tunnel that generates optimal conditions for renenwable power all year round.
The project involved years of planning and construction, but the turbines were each raised in under 24 hours, with the last raised in March 2017, several months ahead of schedule.
But difficulties in financing the transmission line, being laid by state-owned power company Ketraco, and problems acquiring land, meant this landmark project was unable to be connected to the grid for another 18 months — in September 2018.
The wind farm attracted a $200 million loan from the European Investment Bank, the EU’s lending facility, as well as finance from a consortium of European and African companies.


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste
  • While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”