Why let so much wind go to waste?

March 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

By Isaac Kalua
kalua@greenafricafoundation.org

During a recent trip to Lamu, I was amazed by the abundance of dhows. The wind-propelled vessels –mashua – undoubtedly represent the oldest transport technology in the world. Indeed, dhows are the only means of transport that has stood firm and unbowed by modern technology.

Christopher Columbus couldn’t have discovered America if it wasn’t for wind-propelled sailing. Unfortunately, wind energy is today largely perceived as a manifestation of marginalisation amongst sailing communities like those in Lamu. The saving grace is that renewable energy enthusiasts are hard at work to mainstream wind as a safe and sustainable source of clean energy. In 2008, the US Department of Energy realised the immense potency of wind energy and released a report entitled, “20 per cent wind energy by 2030”. Kenya’s Vision 2030 is alive to the fact that wind energy contributes a paltry 0.01 per cent to the country’s energy. However, the vision doesn’t clearly spell out how to tap into wind energy at a macro scale to power sustainable economic growth.

It may be too ambitious to follow in America’s footsteps and increase wind energy from 0.01 per cent to 20 per cent by 2030. However, an increment to 10 per cent is doable. After all, Bubisa wind corridor in Marsabit County has one of the strongest wind flows in the world. This wind can produce up to 600 MW of electricity to the national grid, which would represent a one-hundred-fold leap from the current contribution. It makes good economic and environmental sense that if Kenya is blessed with one of the strongest wind flow corridors in the world, then it should be one of the leading global players in wind energy. Germany’s onshore wind capacity in 2013 was 33,730 MW. Although this is a far cry from Kenya’s wind energy reality and aspiration, it is a testament to the immense potency of wind energy.

If Kenya is to go the Deustch way and harness wind for energy, then the State, private sector and civil society must play their roles with passion, professionalism, efficiency and consistency.

Parliament needs to enact a comprehensive renewable energy law to provide a solid legislative framework for tapping of renewable energy in general with specific clauses on wind energy, solar energy and other forms of green energy. On its part, the national government needs to multiply incentives for both onshore and offshore wind energy initiatives. County legislatures and governments must replicate these incentives at their level. We have got used, almost immune, to demonstrations against corruption and agitation for good governance. Rarely do we see protests in support of renewable energy.

 

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