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.


Spain’s tourism moving inland

Updated 9 min 42 sec ago

Spain’s tourism moving inland

  • Foreigners account for 20% of all visitors to northern Asturias region in 2019, up from 10% a decade ago

MADRID: Rural and green travel is the new frontier for Spain’s tourism industry as it tries to break free from its dependence on mass seaside travel and fight off stiff competition from cheaper Mediterranean rivals.

Foreign visitors accounted for just 5 percent of all tourists who stayed at a rural home in the country in 2014.

Today they make up 20 percent, according to the tourism ministry, a share the government wants to rise to 35 percent.

“We must have done something right,” the ministry’s director for sustainable tourism, Ricardo Blanco, said at the five-day Fitur tourism trade fair in Madrid which wraps up Sunday.

Spain, the world’s second-most visited country after France, hit a record for tourist arrivals for the seventh year in a row last year, with nearly 84 million foreign visitors.

But the big resorts which started out in the 1960s along the country’s southern coastline saw profits fall by 0.7 percent as sunseekers from northern Europe returned to less expensive destinations in Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt which they had shunned for years due to security concerns.

By contrast foreign tourism grew by “almost double digits” in Spain’s green northern coast, and did well in the arid and underpopulated center which is home to medieval architecture, according to a recent report from tourism company lobby group Exceltur which wants to end a reliance on “sun and beach” tourism.

In the northern Asturias region, where a moist climate gives rise to a wealth of forests and rich vegetation, the government’s efforts have “started to bear fruit,” said the regional government’s deputy Tourism Minister Graciela Blanco.

The region, which has long been popular with Spaniards, welcomed a record 400,000 foreign visitors last year.

Foreigners accounted for 20 percent of all visitors to Asturias in 2019, up from 10 percent a decade ago.

Asturias has benefited from renewed interest in the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route which passes through the region. And the local government has boosted promotion of the region’s natural parks for hiking, cycling and eco-tourism in other European countries as well as Japan and South Korea, where there is strong interest in the pilgrimage route known in English as the “Saint James Way.”

The scenario is similar in the neighboring northwestern region of Galicia where the number of foreign tourists has nearly doubled over the past 10 years.

The pilgrimage route ends in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, and services catering to tourists have sprouted up in the region such as wine tours and horseback riding in a bid to attract the visitors.

Many pilgrims return to Galicia to go sightseeing and take part in these activities, said Carmen Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the region’s tourism board.

But interior regions “remain very hard to sell online” to tourists, said Cristina Brunet, who owns several bed and breakfasts in the northern city of Palencia in the Castilla-Leon region, one of Spain’s most depopulated areas. Tourists looking for places to spend their holidays type the names of regions they already know into search engines, and the government does not take part in enough tourism fairs outside of Spain to promote the interior, she added.

“Everyone has heard of Marbella, Torremolinos and Benidorm but no one knows the rest of the country,” said Eduardo Gutierrez of public tourism innovation body Segittur, in a reference to three popular seaside resorts on Spain’s southern coast.

Rural residents who want to open a bed and breakfast or other tourism-related project often lack internet connections and struggle to get loans, added Maria Teresa Lopez, president of the federation of rural women’s associations (Fademur).