NAIROBI Construction of a 310 megawatt (MW) wind power project in Kenya is expected to start in April after its financiers complete due diligence on the project, a senior company official said on Thursday.
Most of Kenya's power is generated by hydroelectric plants, which are prone to the vagaries of frequent droughts, which cut water levels in dams, lead to power outages and force east Africa's biggest economy to rely on diesel-powered generators.
Work on the 617 million euro ($873.7 million) Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project was initially expected to have started by last month.
Carlo Van Wageningen, chairman of LTWP, said its financiers were going through the due diligence process, which was expected to culminate in finalizing the funding.
"We don't expect any further delays. We are looking at financial close at the end of March, beginning of April and therefore groundbreaking as soon as possible after that," Van Wageningen told Reuters by phone.
The LTWP power project is expected to start production after 2013. It involves building a wind farm within Loiyangalani, a remote region in the northwest part of the country and near the Lake Turkana basin.
Van Wageningen said the World Bank is one of the project's guarantors on behalf of the Kenyan government and that the bank required the project to undergo an environmental impact assessment study.
He said the study was complete and was posted on the World Bank Web site from November 15 for a statutory 120 days for the public to comment and would thereafter be taken before the bank's board for approval.
"The pushback is really due to the fact that we have done some more studies on environmental impact. The World Bank will now be providing certain guarantees and credit enhancements on behalf of the government," Van Wageningen said.
LTWP is a subsidiary of KP&P, a Dutch firm which sets up wind power projects. The Kenyan venture will be the biggest in the country, consisting of 365 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850 kilowatts.
LTWP has an agreement with Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems to supply 365 Vestas V52 turbines.
"We don't expect any delays. We're sure and foresee production of these turbines will not be delayed," Van Wageningen said.
LTWP will transmit its power to the national grid through a 428 km (266 mile) overhead line it will build for the government and offload the electricity to the state-run Kenya Power Company.
The country hopes to add 2,000 MW of environmentally friendly energy sources by 2013.
(Editing by Duncan Miriri and Jane Baird)