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Firm bets on Sh75b green energy project to grow Marsabit economy

Some of the turbines at Sarima village in Marsabit County. [Photo: Ali Abdi/Standard]

On a barren, windy terrain dotted with rugged hills, stands a giant wind turbine.

Beneath are well-murram roads with nomads from Sarima village in Marsabit County grazing their livestock.

The hitherto sleepy Sarima village will soon host Africa’s largest wind farm. Through Winds of Change (WoC), a foundation of Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP), the nomadic communities of Rendille, Samburu, Turkana and El-Molo have begun reaping benefits of the Sh75 billion initiative.

It is expected to add 310 megawatts to the national grid by the end of the year. The residents of the vast and remote Laisamis Constituency have for the last two years enjoyed improved road and transport network due to the murraming of a 208-kilometre of road that runs from Laisamis town to Sarima site.

The road cuts from Laisamis through Lengima, Illaut, South Horr wards to Sarima, while a second route leads from Lengima to Korr and Sarima.

“The initiative is not entirely the foundation’s but the road network was done by LTWP and has since transformed the transport network in the area,” said Dominic Dabaleh, the field WoC Programme Officer.

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Mr Dabaleh added: “The project has significantly increased access roads to markets, health centres and education facilities for the local population’’.

Through its corporate social responsibility, LTWP has through the foundation spent Euro 1 million (about Sh110 million) on community projects in the education, health and water sectors among others.

From next year, it will annually contribute Euro 500,000 (Sh55 million) to the project. At Korr, WoC set up a certified computer learning institute. About 200 students have graduated so far.

Education tours

“All essential learning materials and solar power energy have been installed. Students pay Sh500 per package,’’ said Dabaleh.

To enhance the education sector, the foundation has also constructed dormitories, laboratories, and installed solar powers, computer centres backed by internet across Laisamis and into Samburu North.

“They have also built a dormitory at Nyiro Boys and a laboratory at Nyiro Girls all in South Horr. LTWP Deputy General Manager in charge of CSR programme Caroline Ongeri also revealed that the foundation has funded several education tours for local students and pupils to places like Nairobi and Nakuru counties to provide the learners with their first travels outside Marsabit County’’.

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At Laisamis Health Centre and some dispensaries like Burri-Aramis, solar powers have been installed solar powers; fridges for storage of vital immunisation vaccines and medical equipment among others have also been acquired.

The project has also seen the equipping and rehabilitation of several boreholes in Lengima, Gatab and Olturot among other villages.

“We have constructed a 12.5 km water pipeline to Larachi and another 14-kilometre to Arge along with two kiosks, thereby providing direct access to water for the locals,’’ said Dabaleh.

On sport, while also keen on local inter-community relations and integration, the foundation has started an annual 10-kilometre road race that brings together the four rival tribes who often clash over scarce resources.

LTWP project completed installation of all 365 turbines two weeks ago. A sub-station where power from the wind farm would be connected is nearly complete with transmission line also in a similar stage. Vestas, a Dutch firm was contracted by LTWP to set up and install the turbines in 2014.

Created up to 900 jobs

Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) has also begun laying power transmission lines that will pass through South Horr, Baragoi, Maralal, Nyahururu, Gilgil, and Naivasha and onwards to Suswa sub-station from where it would be connected to the national grid.

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On completion, the wind farm will produce enough energy to power one million households.

Power transmission lines would also be connected to all centres in Laisamis to enable locals to connect to electricity easily.

Besides Laisamis trading centre, there is no power in the whole area and only those who afford solar or diesel generated engines afford enjoy electricity.

Considered the largest private investment in the country, the project has created up to 900 jobs for the local communities.

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