East Africa’s drive to ramp up renewable-based energy capacity stalled after project backers and Kenyan courts halted a planned $150-million, 60.8-MW wind-park project due to an ongoing dispute over land ownership at the proposed site.
A group of farmers and land owners in Kenya’s Kinangop Plateau, about 107 kilometers northwest of the capital Nairobi, rejected an offer for their land to develop the planned Kinangop Wind Park. The greenfield wind-energy project is 81% owned by African Investment Managers, a joint venture of Sydney-based fund Macquarie Group and South African asset manager Old Mutual Investment Group. Norwegian private equity firm Norfund holds the remaining 19% stake. Aeolus Kenya Ltd., a private energy and infrastructure developer—and founding private-sector member of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative—is the project’s developer.
The land dispute emerged despite the project developer’s documented consultations with community groups in November 2010 and assertions that the community indicated it was “willing to lease land for erection of turbines as long as they will be compensated as already agreed in the Land Lease Agreements.”
In a statement last month, James Wakaba, the chief executive with Kinangop Wind Park Ltd.—the project’s special-purpose financing vehicle—explained: “The impact of the initial civil commotion has not been resolved while further incidents have occurred, creating an unsafe environment for the team to implement the project. Furthermore, due to the consequent material delay, project funds have been depleted and the project can no longer be completed by the shareholders.
“While KWP and its partners remain committed to the provision of wind-generated power in Kenya, the decision has been made to cease implementation of the Kinangop Wind Park project, given the circumstances,” Wakaba continued. Currently, Kenya has less than 6MW of capacity generated from wind energy.
Last year, in a lawsuit, the Kinangop landowners denied they ever surrendered their property for the wind farm and expressed concerns over the effect of installing wind turbines in the area.
“Whereas under international standards the 38 wind-turbine generators should be installed at least 1,000 meters from residential premises, the proponents of the Kinangop Wind Park project have only acquired 38 plots of 40 m x 40 m each, which means that residential premises of thousands of families of Kinangop Plateau will be within prohibited proximity to the detriment of their rights under Article 42 of the [Kenya] Constitution,” the group said in court documents. The high court has temporarily stopped the project.
Spanish construction firm Ibderdola Ingenieria y Construction had been picked to build the wind park and install thirty-eight 1.6-MW wind turbines to generate electricity for sale to Kenya Power & Lighting Co. (KPLC) under a long-term power-purchase agreement. The wind park initially was planned to start commercial operations in July 2015.
Developers estimated that, by 2019, the wind farm’s 60.8-MW capacity would be sufficient to power more than 150,000 households, while avoiding an estimated 847,252 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.