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East Africa: Water, Wind, and Lake Turkana

AfricaFocus Bulletin
March 3, 2015 (150303)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Lake Turkana, in the far northwest of Kenya and extending over the border into Ethiopia, is the world's largest desert lake, in a region that is central to archaeological investigation into the origin of humanity. It is now also central to two different projects for expanding renewable energy due to come on-line in the next three years, one based on hydropower and the other on wind. While both will significantly expand the input to the East African power grid, critics charge that expansion of hydropower on Ethiopia's Omo River also poses serious threats to the livelihood of local people both around Lake Turkana and upstream along the Omo River.

The hydropower project, the Gilgel Gibe III dam, is expected to generate its first power in June 2015 and grow to a capacity of 1,870 MW. It would also serve Kenya as well as Ethiopia through a transmission line to be completed in 2018. The Lake Turkana Wind Power project, which completed a complex financing package in late 2014, is expected to begin production of power in a little more than two years, with an eventual capacity of 300 MW, increasing Kenya's electricity capacity by about 20% from current levels.

While the Turkana wind project has minimal environmental impact, the Gibe III, like other such large hydropower projects, has a much larger environmental footprint, raising multiple questions about the impact on downstream populations of the dam and of large-scale irrigated agricultural projects displacing local populations. The Ethiopian government has rejected such criticism as uninformed. But both the World Bank and the African Development Bank declined to support the Gibe III project, which subsequently gained significant Chinese backing. In contrast, the African Development Bank is the lead financing partner for the Turkana wind project.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and project profile from the Lake Turkana Wind Power consortium responsible for the project, and excerpts from two critical documents on the potential impact of the Gilgel Gibe III dam on Lake Turkana, from International Rivers and from Dr. Sean Avery, a consultant who prepared impact reports for the African Development Bank and for the University of Oxford African Studies Center.

Other relevant sources of interest include:

On Lake Turkana Wind Power:

Carlos Van Wageningen (Chairman of Lake Turkana Wind Power, talks about Lake Turkana, the largest wind power plant in Africa. 10- minute video interview, November 15, 2013,

On the Gilgel Gibe III dam and its impact:

Official site for project, including page responding to issues raised by critics

World Bank, "The Eastern Electricity Highway Project under the First Phase of the Eastern Africa Power Integration Program," (on the Ethiopia-Kenya transmission line to be constructed)

Human Rights Watch, "Ethiopia: Land, Water Grabs Devastate Communities," Feb. 18, 2014

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the environment and climate change, visit

Ebola Perspectives

[AfricaFocus is regularly monitoring and posting links on Ebola on social media. For additional links, see]

New and of particular interest:

"Renewed spread in Freetown, Sierra Leone - how easily virus can take off again"
New York Times, March 1, 2015

"Overview of economic impact & enormous difficulties of recovery, particularly in Sierra Leone & Liberia"
Reuters, Feb. 27, 2015

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Africa's Largest Wind Power Project Achieves Full Financial Close

Lake Turkana Wind Power receives first disbursements of funds

Nairobi, Kenya, 19 December 2014

Following the financial close of Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP) on 11 December 2014, LTWP has received the first disbursement of funds pursuant to financing agreements signed in March 2014.

"Reaching this important milestone today caps a year of major achievements by LTWP," said Mugo Kibati, LTWP's Chairman of the Board. "This includes signing the financing agreements in March, issuing notice to proceed by KETRACO to the transmission line construction contractor in August, financial close of the LTWP equity partners in September, as well as notices to proceed to LTWP's contractors in October."

The LTWP project, Kenya Shillings 70 billion (623 million Euros), is the largest single wind power project to be constructed in Africa and is, to date, the largest private investment in the history of Kenya and arguably one of the most complex and challenging project financing undertaken in the renewable energy space in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is a key deliverable under the Government's commitment to scaling up electricity generation to 5,000MW and is a flagship project within the Vision 2030 program. The LTWP project will provide cost effective renewable power to the Kenyan consumer and will comprise approximately 20% of Kenya's currently installed generating capacity.

The LTWP consortium is comprised of KP&P Africa B.V. and Aldwych International as co-developers and investors, and Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd (Finn Fund), Industrial Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), KLP Norfund Investments, Vestas Eastern Africa (VEAL) and Sandpiper as investors. Aldwych Turkana Ltd, an affiliate of Aldwych International, will oversee construction and operations of the project on behalf of LTWP.

The support, interaction and uplifting of local communities is a high priority for LTWP. As such, LTWP adopted a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program which will be implemented by the Winds of Change Foundation (a wholly owned subsidiary of LTWP). This foundation aims to uplift local communities through programs such as the CHAT HIV awareness campaign, water, sanitation, electrification, sustainable development of agriculture as well as the education of boys and girls.

Initially, activities will be concentrated around the wind farm communities (Loyangalani, Korr and Laisamis divisions, with South Horr). CSR activities will gradually expand to the wider project area.

The financing agreements were signed in March 2014 with the African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank (EIB), Nederlandse Financierings Maatschappij Voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), Société De Promotion Et De Participation Pour La Coopération Economique (Proparco), Eastern And Southern African Trade And Development Bank (PTA Bank), Nedbank Capital, The Standard Bank of South Africa, Eksport Kredit Fonden (EKF), Deg -- Deutsche Investitions - Und Entwicklungsgesellschaft Mbh, East African Development Bank and Triodos.

After eight years of development with the full support of the Government of Kenya, Kenya Power, the Energy Regulation Committee (ERC) and Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO), utilization of the funds signifies the completion of the project's financing stage, which will allow the project to move towards implementation and to commence producing electricity in 2017.

For further press information please contact: Mary E O'Reilly, Phone : + 254 733 751 799 or +254 711 667 670, Email:

Please also visit for further information.

Notes to Editor:

The wind farm site, covering 40,000 acres (162km2), is located in Loyangalani District, Marsabit West County, in north-eastern Kenya, approximately 50km north of South Horr Township. The project will comprise 365 wind turbines (each with a capacity of 850 kW), the associated overhead electric grid collection system and a high voltage substation. The project also includes upgrading of the existing road from Laisamis to the wind farm site, which is partly financed by the Dutch Government and is a distance of approximately 204km. In addition, the project will build an access road network in and around the site for construction, operations and maintenance. The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (Ketraco), with concessional funding from the Spanish Government, is constructing a double circuit 400kV, 428km transmission line to deliver the LTWP electricity along with power from other future plants to the national grid.

Lake Turkana Wind Power

Project Profile, August 2014


1. The Project Profile

The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP) aims to provide 300MW of reliable, low cost wind power to the Kenya national grid, equivalent to approximately 20% of the current installed electricity generating capacity. The Project is of significant strategic benefit to Kenya, and at Ksh76 billion (Euro 623 million) will be the largest single private investment in Kenya's history. The wind farm site, covering 40,000 acres (162km2), is located in Loyangalani District, Marsabit West County approximately 50km north of South HorrTownship.

Transmission line and access roads in relation to the wind farm

The Project will comprise 365 wind turbines (each with a capacity of 850 kW), the associated overhead electric grid collection system and a high voltage substation. The Project also includes upgrading of the existing road from Laisamis to the wind farm site, a distance of approximately 204km, as well as an access road network in and around the site for construction, operations and maintenance. The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (Ketraco), with concessional funding from the Spanish Government, is constructing a double circuit 400kv, 428km transmission line to deliver the LTWP electricity along with power from other future plants to the national grid.

The Project proponent is the LTWP consortium comprising KP&P Africa B.V. and Aldwych International as co-developers, Industrial Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), Wind Power A.S. (Vestas), Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd (Finnfund),and Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund). LTWP is solely responsible for the financing, construction and operation of the wind farm. Aldwych, an experienced power company focused on Africa, will oversee the construction and operations of the power plant on behalf of LTWP. Vestas will provide the maintenance of the plant in contract with LTWP. The power produced will be bought at a fixed price by Kenya Power (KPLC) over a 20-year period in accordance with the signed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

2. Background

Several sites in Marsabit County were explored for suitability of wind power generation. The proposed site was selected following an extensive survey of the region focusing on environmental, social and sustainability, technology and commercial considerations, including the remoteness of the area, the strength and stability of the winds, proven technology, benign environmental setting, low population density, security of the area, fresh water availability and road accessibility. In addition, in order to avoid possible bird contact with the turbines, the proposed wind farm is sited at least 9 km from the shore of Lake Turkana. A 12 month ornithological study has been concluded and annual environmental audits will be done for the entire wind farm during the 20 year operations period.


3. Who is LTWP?

Joint Development Parties

  1. KP&P BV Africa
  2. Aldwych International Limited
  3. Wind Power A.S. (Vestas)
  4. Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund)
  5. Danish Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU)
  6. Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd (Finnfund)


The lead arranger of the debt financing is the African Development Bank with Standard Bank of South Africa and Nedbank Capital of South Africa as co-arrangers.

4.Project Benefits

4.1 Reliable Power

  • Largest single wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Optimal site location: According to the National Wind Resource Atlas, as compiled by the Ministry of Energy, MarsabitWestCounty is generally gifted with exceptional wind resources.
  • Reliable wind: The site lies between 450m at the shore of Lake Turkana and 2,300m above sea level at the top of Mt.Kulal. The area around the site has a unique geographical phenomenon whereby daily temperature fluctuations generate strong predictable wind streams between Lake Turkana (with relatively constant temperature) and the desert hinterland (with steep temperature fluctuations) and as the wind streams pass through the valley between the Mt. Kulal and Mt. Nyiru ranges (2,750m above sea level) which effectively act as a funnel causing the wind streams to accelerate (known as the Turkana Corridor low level jet stream). The Turkana wind phenomenon stems from the East African jet stream which stretches from the ocean through the Ethiopian highlands and valleys to the deserts in Sudan in a south-east direction all year round.
  • Data collected and analysed since 2007 indicate that site has some of the best wind resources in Africa, with consistent wind speeds averaging 11 meters/second and from the same direction year round.

4.2 Renewable Energy

  • LTWP has registered with the UNFCCC and approved at the Gold Standard rating; the income from the carbon credits will be given to with the government and invested in the community (see below).
  • The Project reduces the need to depend on unreliable hydro and on expensive, unpredictably priced fossil fuel based power generation and insulates Kenya's power tariff by providing a low and consistent power price.
  • If the wind is less than predicted then only LTWP suffers as Kenya Power only pays for the power produced at a fixed price per kWh.

4.3 Low Cost Power

  • The Government of Kenya's Least Cost Development Power Plan shows that LTWP wind power will be the least cost power generation option available in the country along with geothermal power and at even less cost than the feed in tariff for other wind projects set at US$11 cents/kWh.
  • The LTWP tariff will be approximately 60% cheaper than thermal power plants

4.4 Community Development and Environmental Impact

  • MarsabitWestCounty is among the poorest counties in Kenya; Loyangalani is one of the poorest districts in Marsabit.
  • LTWP has all the required environmental and social approvals in line with the IFC Performance Standards
  • A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme is being finalised based on extensive input from the communities in order to ensure that livelihoods are improved; LTWP will use a combination of revenue from carbon credits and profit to form and fund a trust, which will ensure a well targeted plan over the 20 years of the investment.

4.5 Macroeconomic Impact

  • Largest single private investment in Kenya
  • Will replace need for Kenya to spend approximately Ksh13.7 billion (Euro 120 million) per year on importing fuel
  • The LTWP tax contribution to Kenya will be approximately Ksh2.7 billion (Euro 22.7 million) per year and Ksh58.6 billion (Euro 450 million) over the life of the investment
  • Jobs


Turkana's "Forgotten People" Call for Halt to Ethiopia's Imminent Water Grabs

International Rivers, Press Release, January 8, 2015

Berkeley, US: International Rivers is today publishing a report and video with voices from Lake Turkana, which tell an emotional story of a people facing a major crisis.

Media contacts: Peter Bosshard, Policy Director, +1 (510) 848-1155 ext. 320,, @PeterBosshard

The world's largest desert lake -- Lake Turkana in Kenya -- is at imminent risk from upstream water grabs that will dramatically reduce the lake's main water supply, shrink the lake, and kill off ecosystems and productive fisheries. Some 300,000 of the world's poorest people depend on the lake for their survival. The imminent filling of Ethiopia's Gibe III Dam and other water grabs on the Omo River will mean the difference between marginal livelihoods and famine for most. International Rivers calls on the Ethiopian government and its donors to ensure sufficient downstream water flows before closing the Gibe III Dam gates.

Ethiopia is building huge dams and plantations in the Omo River Valley, displacing its own people in addition to causing lost livelihoods in Kenya. Gibe III Dam (now nearing completion) is one of Africa's largest hydropower projects. The filling of its reservoir will take an estimated three years and reduce water flows by up to 70% in the Omo River.

The associated expansion of water-intensive sugar and cotton plantations poses an even greater threat: if current plans described by the Ethiopian government move forward, hydrologists estimate the lake level could drop between 16 and 22 meters. The average depth of the lake is just 31 meters. "These water grabs will disrupt fisheries and destroy other ecosystems upon which local people depend," comments Lori Pottinger, International Rivers' Africa Campaigner. "Local people have not been consulted about the project nor informed about its impacts on their lives."

The new International Rivers report -- called Come and Count Our Bones: Community Voices from Lake Turkana on the Impacts of Gibe III Dam -- is based on interviews with more than 100 people in communities around Lake Turkana. "Once the dam is operating, everything people feed on will disappear. Starvation will take over," said pastorialist Rebecca Arot.

Kenya is planning to purchase electricity from Gibe III, and the World Bank is supporting the transmission line from the dam to Kenya. In spite of losing livelihoods and food security, the downstream victims of the Omo River water grabs are unlikely to receive any benefits from the power production. "We cannot eat electricity. What we require is food and income for the Turkana community," said Christopher Eporon Ekuwom of the Turkana County Government's Ministry of Pastoral Economy & Fisheries.

"The lake is like our farm," one pastoralist told International Rivers. "The life of this place is fish . . . if this lake was not there, the fish would not be there, and life in this place would almost be impossible," said a local businessman.

The Ethiopian government has thus far failed to acknowledge the impacts of its Omo developments on Lake Turkana. The Kenyan government has not publicly requested protection for the lake from water diversions. Turkana residents who were interviewed had many messages for these two governments.

The Ethiopian government and its infrastructure development plans are highly dependent on aid from Western governments, China, the World Bank, and other international institutions. International Rivers calls on Ethiopia and its donors to avert this human-made humanitarian disaster, stop water grabs from the Omo River and make sure the Gibe III Dam is only operated with sufficient downstream flows to sustain ecosystems and livelihoods in the Lower Omo Valley and around Lake Turkana.

[Additional sources, including reports and video, available at link above]

Lake Turkana and the Lower Omo: hydrological impacts of major dam and irrigation developments

University of Oxford, Africa Studies Centre, 2012

This study, by the Nairobi-based consultant hydrologist and civil engineer, Dr Sean Avery, is one of the outcomes of the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) funded project, 'Landscape people and parks: environmental change in the Lower Omo Valley, southwestern Ethiopia', run by Professor David Anderson and Dr David Turton between 2007 and 2010. As work on this project proceeded, it became clear that the landscape of the lower Omo would soon undergo one of the biggest transformations in its history, thanks to the Gibe III hydropower dam which had just begun construction in the middle basin of the Omo, about 600 kilometres upstream from Lake Turkana. Due for completion in 2014, Gibe III will regulate the flow of the Omo and permanently modify the annual flood regime upon which the agropastoralists of the lower Omo depend for their livelihoods. Furthermore, by uplifting the natural low flows in the river, the dam will make possible reliable large-scale irrigation development in the lower basin.

Since the Omo supplies 90 per cent of the water entering Kenya's Lake Turkana, the regulation of the Omo flows and the abstraction of Omo water for large-scale irrigation will alter the hydrological inflow patterns to Lake Turkana. This will directly impact the ecology of the lake, which is Kenya's largest, and the world's largest desert lake. The consequences of large irrigation abstractions were not mentioned in any of the environmental impact assessments commissioned by the Gibe III dam builders. An assessment was made, however, by Dr Avery in a report commissioned by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and submitted in 2010. This was before any official announcement had been made of the extent of planned irrigation in the lower Omo. Nevertheless, by using irrigation water demand forecasts from the Omo Basin Master Plan and a future hypothetical scenario, it was shown that the lake could drop by 20 metres or more, causing, amongst other things, a significant reduction in the productivity of its fisheries. The AFDB report also warned of the cumulative impacts of other associated developments and recommended that these be evaluated.

A few months after the AFDB report was submitted, the full extent of planned irrigation development in the lower Omo became clearer, with the announcement that the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation would soon begin developing 150,000 hectares of irrigated sugar plantations. This was on land largely taken from existing protected areas and was additional to other land in the lower Omo that had already been allocated to, or earmarked for development by, private investors. It appeared that the lower Omo was set to become by far the largest irrigation complex in Ethiopia. We therefore asked Dr Avery to undertake a second study, on behalf of the 'Landscape, people and parks' project, updating and consolidating his earlier findings on the hydrological impacts on the lower Omo and Lake Turkana. This report, which can be downloaded below, constitutes the most complete, detailed and authoritative assessment yet made of the impact of river basin development in the Omo Valley on the Lake Turkana Basin.

[full report available at link above]

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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