wave power
Rising standards of living and increased populations mean one thing; developing countries will need to greatly increase their capacity to produce energy. Electrical grids are inefficient in most impoverished nations. This creates an opportunity for countries and local communities to adopt renewable sources to meet growing electricity demands.

Interest is increasing in renewable energy and the positive impact it can have on developing nations. The excitement surrounding renewables emphasizes the growing efficiency and effectiveness of solar, wind and, to a lesser extent, hydroelectric power. There is another renewable energy option—wave power—which offers a consistent source of power with relatively high efficiency.

Over 40 percent of the World’s population lives on a coastline. Widespread coastal access translates to a vast reserve of untapped energy. New technology can harness this energy. On a local scale, wave power could support micro-grids that generate and distribute electricity for small communities. Additionally, developing countries stand to benefit, as ocean-produced hydro-energy is remarkably cost-effective.

Small-Scale Energy

Historically, wave and tidal power appeared too fickle to approach as an energy source.  However, as wave technology progressed in recent years, the prospect of extracting energy from ocean waves became increasingly enticing. Unlike solar panels and wind turbines, which may shut down from too much cloud cover or a lack of wind, wave power generators consistently generate electricity at a higher average availability.

Companies have begun to engineer wave generators that can be installed on shorelines to further improve affordability and efficiency in energy production. This convenience factor means that once the generator is installed, it can be largely left alone to generate electricity at a more consistent rate than wind and solar power.

Additionally, many poor rural communities still wait for access to large government power grids. In these cases, smaller micro-grids provide the opportunity for communities to distribute power to local households. These micro-grids could act as the most cost-effective solution to small-scale energy delivery to 70 percent of unconnected houses. Wave power stations hold the potential to provide consistent energy to newly constructed micro-grids.

Wave Power and Poverty

However, the wide-spread implementation of wave power is not quite here yet. Even still, companies are rapidly developing technologies that can be installed and maintained close to shore. These companies are building prototypes all over the world. One company, in particular, Yam Pro Energy, installed a large wave power generator on the coastline near Accra, Ghana.

Yam Pro Energy’s wave power generator will generate up to 180 megawatts of power and serve over 10,000 households.

This station will operate around the clock and can generate a thousand times more kinetic energy than local winds. The power station can fill 65 percent of local yearly energy demands, whereas wind turbines and solar panels could only generate between 22 to 24 percent annually.

Looking Forward

The potential benefits of wave power are immense. With the increasing durability of energy stations, the positive impact of a wave power generator on an impoverished community could be enduring. The case of Ghana illustrates how effective wave power can be. The renewable energy source offers a small part of the solution to the cycle of poverty in many countries.

Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta recently broke ground at the site of Africa’s largest wind-power project in Marsabit County, Kenya, which began construction earlier this month. The farm is part of an initiative that will see Kenya become a world leader in renewable energy generation, with a fifth of its energy set to come from the wind turbines when it becomes fully operational in 2017.

The Lake Turkana Wind Project covers 40,000 acres and will be powered by a high-intensity jet stream originating in the Indian Ocean. The farm will consist of 365 wind turbines and is expected to achieve 68% load capacity factor, making it the most energy-efficient wind power farm in the world.

The farm is one element of the Kenyan government’s goal to add 5,000 megawatts of power to its national grid over the next three years, reducing its dependence on hydro and fossil fuels. In 2012, Kenya’s Ministry of Energy announced that vast oil reserves had been discovered in the country’s Turkana region, and four major petroleum basins were being evaluated for economic feasibility. The massive Lake Turkana wind project will provide 20% of Kenya’s energy consumption when fully operational, making the country a prospective leader in renewable energy and weakening the economic argument for accessing these previously untapped fossil fuel reserves.

A government entity called Kenya Power has signed an agreement to buy the power at a fixed price over the next 20 years to guarantee that the wind power is converted into accessible electricity for the Kenyan people. According to a 2013 report published by SunnyMoney, the largest distributor of solar-powered electricity in Africa, 19% of Kenya’s population, or 34 million people, currently live without electricity. Ninety-two percent of rural Kenyan households rely on kerosene for lighting, which can cause permanent eye and lung damage, is too dim to study or perform work after dark, and is extremely expensive, costing off-the-grid families up to 25% of their monthly income.

While Chinese investors have funded many of Africa’s construction initiatives in the last decade, the $690 million Lake Turkana farm is being funded by investors in the European Union under the leadership of the African Development Bank, a development finance institution that contributes to the social progress of African countries. The project is the largest single private investment in Kenyan history.

Due to Kenya’s arid climate, economic opportunity for civilians is limited to animal husbandry and small-scale farming operations. The wind project is set to create 2,000 jobs during the construction phase and over 200 full-time jobs when fully operational. It is also likely to generate thousands more employment opportunities in the form of national power grid operations, electricity distribution and infrastructure.

“As the turbines will be at full production all of the time they will need servicing twice as often as similar units sited in Europe,” said Project Director Carlo van Waginengen in an interview with African Business Review. “As soon as the substation goes live we will be electrifying the largest towns in the area.”

Lake Turkana will also benefit Kenyans in the form of comparatively low energy costs: power from the plant will cost just 8.42 cents per kilowatt, nearly four cents lower than the average cost of electricity in the United States.

Because the power generated by the farm is green energy, the United Nations has registered Lake Turkana under a mechanism that will allow the project to generate carbon credits yielded around $4 million toward local community development. The project has been designed to allocate funding toward business development in the region as part of a 20-year plan.

The Lake Turkana Wind Program represents a long-term investment in energy production and community development in Kenya and provides a legitimate alternative to the short-term economic thought that generally motivates fossil fuel extraction. Projects like this provide opportunities for investors looking to realize returns on sustainable energy initiatives, expand access to basic necessities for local communities and improve economic climates in ways that are sustainable both to the African people and the land that they live on.

Zach VeShancey

Sources: African Business Review, Quartz Africa, Sunny Money, OPIC, ISSUU
Photo: Quartz Africa


Construction has begun on the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which will become Africa’s largest wind power farm. It is estimated to be finished by 2017 and the farm will produce a fifth of Kenya’s total energy. Additionally, Kenya Power has signed a contract to purchase energy from the farm for the next 20 years. The 40,000-acre farm has 365 turbines and will take advantage of a low-level jet stream known as the “Turkana Corridor Winds,” which blow year round.

Regarding the powerful wind speeds and the energy potential, Carlo Van Wageningen, director of the Lake Turkana Wind Project, states, “On average, we obtain 11.8 metres per second. Now, if you make a comparison with onshore wind farms in Europe, you’re looking at a good wind site being about 7.5 to 8 metres a second at best.”

Investors from the European Union have financed the USD $690 million project with the African Development Bank. The program is a milestone in a broader global effort to maximize Africa’s wind power production. Wind power has taken off already in many African countries, such as Morocco, Sudan and South Africa. More than two thirds of Africa’s total population does not have access to electricity. These efforts aim to provide universal access for impoverished Africans living in both urban and rural areas.

In January, a transmission line failure caused a power outage that left over half the country without electricity for four hours. It is absolutely necessary for a country of 4 million people to have a more reliable and accessible source of energy. While power interruptions are becoming increasingly less common, these blackouts can have severe implications for families living in poverty.

The wind farm’s completion is coming at a crucial time for the country. Approximately 80,000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Kenya to escape their civil war. This massive migration has greatly increased the need for electricity, both for native Kenyans and for refugee camps. Less than 25 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity, but it is estimated that the farm’s energy will provide the majority of the population with access to electricity.

Additionally, the farm will provide temporary construction work for almost 2,500 Kenyans and will employ 200 full-time upon completion.

The outlook for the future is quite promising as well. Eight African countries have the most wind energy potential among developing world nations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone could produce twice the energy that Africa as a continent currently consumes.

The IEA estimates that by 2040, wind power capacity in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 12 gigawatts. There are one billion watts per gigawatt and a single LED light bulb requires approximately 15 watts. For a continent that is so severely energy-deprived, a seemingly basic amenity like a light bulb can make a monumental impact.

The Borgen Project

Sources: QZ, AFKInsider, CNBC
Photo: Flickr

Kenya is Going Green and Improving Its EconomyKenya is pushing a number of initiatives that could improve its green footprint, as well as its economy. In efforts to fight climate change and enhance development, Kenya, in the last ten years, has begun to implement a number of green initiatives that could have major benefits in the future. Kenya, in support of going green, has even added constitutional requirements to protect the environment.

One of these initiatives, entitled the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, is a very large proponent of wind-power.  In fact, this wind-power project is the biggest in the entirety of Africa. It is set to begin operating this year and is predicted to bring about 2,500 new jobs, as well as protect the environment. This alone is a great success for Kenya. And the Lake Turkana Wind Power project keeps on giving. The creation of an alternative energy source means lower energy costs, making it easier to produce goods and making services cheaper.

Another one of these initiatives, which offers similar benefits to Kenya, is the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project. Upon its completion in 2014, the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project will add 288 megawatts of power.

Green energy and power sources are desperately needed in Kenya, where polluting fuels, such as coal, are the current energy sources. Currently, 80% of Kenyans utilize wood-based fuels for their daily needs. This leads to a lot of waste going into the environment, as well as waste as tons and tons of trees are cut down and only a portion are used in the creation of charcoal.

Finding alternative fuel sources and coming up with the funding necessary to build farms like the Lake Turkana Wind Power project – which is 100% privately funded – is helping Kenya in their move towards being green and creating social equity. A lot of the benefits of such projects require long-term maintenance and support; yet they are important in making Kenya stronger economy.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: EcoMENA