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Diaspora Seeks to Light Up Kenya With Wind Power

Published on Sunday 13th December 2009

Kenyans in the diaspora are to set up a wind power plant in the northeastern part of the country at a cost of Sh55 billion. Through their firm, Gitson Energy Ltd, the 300-megawatt facility is set to begin operating in 2011 and to attain full capacity in 2012.

The company is currently collecting solar data and information on wind speeds at the project site at Bubisa near Marsabit prior to moving to the implementation stage next year.

"Data collection and monitoring regimes have yielded great results. There is enough wind and solar energy to set up a commercial integrated project. The kind of turbines to use depends on data on wind speed," said Gitson's managing director Michael Ndiritu.

Gitson Energy now plans to negotiate and sign an interim power purchase agreement with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to enable it accelerate the pace of raising money to fund the Marsabit project.

Mr Ndiritu said they will look for funds from diverse sources like equity financing and long-term, low-interest debt as well as working with suppliers to provide the equipment on a long-term basis repayment period.

"We are negotiating with several wind energy equipment suppliers. Gitson is pursuing carbon credits to help unlock project financing and contribute to availing to the national grid electricity that is cheaply generated," he said.

Transmitting electricity from Bubisa to KPLC customers will, however, be a problem as the area lacks a transmission line.

If the proposed Kenya-Ethiopia transmission line is not completed in time, Gitson will have spend more money to link up to the national grid.

Ethiopia is currently undertaking massive hydro power projects to generate electricity for domestic use as well as for sale to Kenya and Sudan.

"The government effort to support green energy development in Kenya is good. Kenya has resources that if harnessed properly can satisfy the country's energy needs at competitive prices," Mr Ndiritu said.

The Ministry of Energy will beginning this month install 33 wind masts and data loggers at various sites to collect information to augment what is already in the current wind atlas of Kenya.

"The data which will be collected will be analysed and the reports given to the private sector to assist in making investment decisions on the size and timing of investment," said Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi.

He said although solar energy is abundant in Kenya the amount harnessed is insignificant as private sector involvement has been limited to basic lighting and to some extent water heating.

The ministry has for the last four years been installing solar photovoltaic electricity generators in schools, dispensaries and health centres located in arid and semi-arid districts in a bid to electrify up more areas.

Sh630 million has already been spent on the programme that has benefited 211 institutions as the government moves to accelerate uptake of electricity from renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

At the same time, Eidea Group is working with ministry of Energy and other stakeholders to sustain interest in green energy in Kenya. It plans to hold the Eastern Africa Renewable Energy Summit and Exhibition in Nairobi next April.

"The forum will bring together government officials, investors, policy makers, researchers and financial institutions to deliberate and find solutions to problems hindering harnessing of renewable energy," said Eidea's director Steve Wambugu.

He said key issues to be addressed are legislation, regulation and policy framework, finance and investment, renewable energy and technology transfer among others.

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