Gusts of opposition hit Kenyan wind farm project

2015-05-21 11:47
File: City Press

File: City Press

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - A planned $144m wind farm project in central Kenya has run into opposition from farmers who fear being forced to sell their land and allege that the wind turbines could cause health problems.

The Kenyan developers of the Kinangop Wind Park clean energy project say they will pay farmers for any land offered, and that no one will be required to sell their property.

They say they have also adhered to international standards in planning the 16-square-kilometre project at the foot of the Aberdare mountain range - and that Kenya needs the energy.

The plant aims to provide electrical power to 150 000 Kenyan homes by 2018.

But protests over the project have left one dead and led to the Nairobi-Western Kenya highway being blocked briefly in February. A lawsuit by farmers seeking to stop the project until their questions are answered has been filed in Kenya's courts, a protest leader said.


Local officials say fears about the project have been fanned by opposition politicians looking for political gain before 2017 general elections in Kenya.

"All the problems around this project are a result of incitement by [opposition] politicians taking advantage of people's ignorance about this project to excite emotions," Waithaka Mwangi, the governor of Nyandarua County, where the project is located, told a public rally in the area recently.

The protests have come as a surprise in power-short Kenya, where the government has made finding new ways to generate electricity one of its priorities.

"The government is here to assure you that this project is for the good of the whole country and is meant to help accelerate growth that we all so badly need," William Ruto, Kenya's deputy president, told placard-carrying protesters in February.

Power or food?

But farmers say they are not convinced, and fear they could eventually be forced to sell their rich agricultural land for the 61 megawatt project, which would be one of the largest wind power installations in Africa.

"Our land is for farming, not for power generation," read one protestor's sign; others expressed worries the turbines could create environmental problems or "kill us through radiation".

Experts say the health fear is unfounded, as wind turbines do not produce electromagnetic radiation at levels that harm human health. Kenya's National Environmental Management authority has signed off on the project's environmental aspects.

But protesters say, at minimum, they do not believe the project will bring the area any benefit.

"The developers have not disclosed the full information of this project to us and we think it will do more harm than good to us," said David Njuguna, one of the protest leaders.

In a court filing, protesters charged issues surrounding compensation for land used for the turbines were mired in secrecy, and questioned whether a consistent amount was being paid per acre of land acquired.

The developers, Kinangop Wind Park and Kinangop Wind Park Lease, have blamed opposition to the project on "politics and misinformation by elements in the community opposed to the development of our country."

"This is a huge capital venture that we have taken time and energy to plan and implement while observing all accepted international standards for energy undertakings," said James Wakaba, the chief executive officer of Kinagop Wind Park, in a telephone interview.

Lack of community benefits

George Frambo , a renewable energy consultant with Clarkson Engineering Corporation, a U.S.-based energy and water firm with operations in East and West Africa, said the problems facing the wind farm could be traced to a lack of local ownership of the project and an absence of discernible benefits for the affected community.

While dismissing health fears resulting from wind turbines, he said any project that a community felt was of no benefit to it or had no relevance to the lives of its people was bound to be met with hostility.

"Are the developers open to local community participation in this project whereby they have a stake in terms of ownership since they are the owners of the land?" he asked.

Asked for comment, Wakaba said he was "open to dialogue with residents" on the issue. But he said farmers who sell their land to the developers will be required to permanently leave it, following a grace period to allow them to move their belongings and find other land.

Frambo said that with existing wind technology it would be possible to allow farmers grow their crops on the project site beneath the turbines without causing any harm to infrastructure.

"Community-based wind farms are a model that has been integrated successfully into wind energy development in the United States and in the Western world and the same can be done in Kenya," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

While the wind power project was set to commence generation in mid-2016, opposition could push back that date, Wakaba said.

Read more on:    william ruto  |  kenya  |  agriculture  |  energy  |  east africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.