Wind energy projects in Kenya to factor in biodiversity needs

Wind power is considered to be a clean, low cost and sustainable source of energy. It is also one of the fastest growing electricity sources around the globe. Kenya’s potential for wind generation is amongst the highest in Africa, with the 310 megawatt Lake Turkana Wind Power project set to become the largest wind farm in Africa once operational.

Compared to fossil fuels, wind power is relatively more environmentally friendly. However, wind turbines and their associated infrastructure, notably power lines and towers, pose a threat to birds and bats. Spinning blades of wind turbines are potentially dangerous to migrating birds, placing them at risk of colliding with the turbines. The location of wind farms is therefore a serious consideration when it comes to wind power. Risks greatly increase when wind turbines are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites or key breeding or foraging areas for birds and bats.

A recent analysis placed Kenya among countries with the highest concentrations of bird species vulnerable to wind power impacts. While bird ‘sensitivity maps’ have been produced for countries along the Rift Valley flyway to the north, no comprehensive assessment has been carried out in Kenya. Basically, wind power developers in Kenya have been operating in the dark in respect to biodiversity impacts owing to the lack of reliable information. This information gap for biodiversity and wind power has presented a significant obstacle to realizing wind energy potential in Kenya.

To address this, the Ministry of Energy is carrying out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for wind power and biodiversity in Kenya. The national SEA for wind and biodiversity is envisaged as a tool for decision making by government and private sector on placement of wind farms, with special consideration on migratory soaring birds, saving time and money. Information provided by the SEA will help to inform decisions on the safe siting of new wind power developments, ensuring that negative impacts on important migration routes, stopover sites or breeding areas are minimized.

An expert technical consortium (dubbed the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium) comprising of Nature Kenya, The Peregrine Fund Kenya and BirdLife International, working in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy (TBC), is conducting the SEA. The process is supported by USAID through its program implemented by Tetra Tech. Tetra Tech has contracted The Biodiversity Consultancy (TBC) to lead the SEA process. The Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium, TBC, Tetra Tech and USAID/Power Africa effectively lobbied the Ministry of Energy to own the national wind power SEA process.

As part of the process, the Ministry of Energy convened a meeting in August to deliberate on the SEA. The meeting sought to create awareness on the SEA among energy and conservation stakeholders to promote understanding, consensus building and buy in. It also sought to get the sector players’ input on the proposed SEA.

Key outcomes of the meeting included:

  • The national wind power SEA should not be construed as a barrier to projects. Its primary goal is not to designate no-go areas, but to highlight critical biodiversity-related issues that wind power developers in Kenya should bear in mind to avoid adverse impacts and reduce risks to their projects and investments.
  • The SEA will follow procedures that are laid out in national legislation. To effect this, a meeting will be held among key stakeholders, including the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Energy for further discussion.
  • The SEA process shall strive to be as inclusive as possible including the involvement of as many stakeholders as possible but with considerations of time, financial and other resources.

Site-specific actions will be addressed during environmental impact assessments for specific projects.

Participants in the meeting were drawn from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, USAID/Power Africa, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), NEMA, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Council of Governors, Lake Turkana Wind Power, Kenya Power Institute of Energy and Research, the World Bank, The Biodiversity Consultancy, BirdLife International and Nature Kenya, among others.

Consultations between the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium and wind farm developers started in early 2017. Over time, wind power project proponents demonstrated to the Kenya Bird Conservation Consortium that a wind farm could achieve a net gain for populations of the critically endangered vultures. This was based on in-depth analysis and a business case.

In addition, the project proponents effectively influenced USAID, through their Power Africa Transactions and Reforms Program (PATRP), to support a national strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for wind power in Kenya.


Nature Champions: Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio)

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are now part of a new, broader definition of sites critically important for the conservation of biodiversity: Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). All 67 IBAs in Kenya qualify as KBAs. Local environmental groups play a key role in protecting Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) when they become a site support group (SSG).

Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio) is the Mt. Kenya forest KBA site support group. Formed in 1999, Mt. Kebio was registered by the Department of Social Services as a community based organization (CBO) in 2004. The need to conserve the environment from which group members earned a living from was the main force behind its registration, with deforestation, solid waste pollution, poaching and charcoal burning as some of the group’s immediate concerns. Most Mt. Kebio members are registered mountain guides, porters and cooks operating within Mt. Kenya. These members earn a living from the mountain, by providing their services to visitors and mountaineers.

The group has been engaged in a number of activities geared towards fulfilling its conservation agenda, including tree planting, environmental awareness, ecotourism and garbage collection. Mt. Kebio organizes bird watching trips every last Saturday of the month, drawing local and international bird enthusiasts. The group holds annual clean ups exercises in towns in the Mt. Kenya area, and distributes environmental reading material provided by Nature Kenya to the local people.

Mt. Kebio manages the Mt. Kenya eco-resource centre located at Naro Moru. The centre has a library, a mini museum, conference facilities, binoculars and guidebooks, and camping ground for ecotourism.

Visting Mt. Kenya? Contact Mt. Kebio at

or Martin Njogu

Mobile: 0724 690121

Quick response averts poisoning deaths

Poisoning still remains a major threat to wildlife conservation. Efforts undertaken by conservation stakeholders have ensured that communities are more vigilant and quicker in reporting wildlife poisoning cases. A recent occurrence in Maasai Mara is a testimony of how community rapid response to poisoning incidents can prevent secondary wildlife deaths.

In August, a local community member came across a dead hyena at the border of Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara area. Suspecting the hyena had died of poisoning, he instantly reported the incident. A rapid response team was immediately dispatched to the scene to inspect the carcass. Upon examination, it was confirmed the hyena had indeed died of poisoning. The carcass was then safely disposed of and the scene decontaminated.  Timely reporting of the incident meant there were no resultant vulture deaths.

Poisoning is the biggest threat to Africa’s vultures, accounting for 60% of their deaths. Seven of Africa’s 11 vulture species now face imminent extinction, with their decline being alarmingly rapid: a plummet of 80-97% over just three generations. Four out of the seven species are now listed as Critically Endangered.

 Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ is financed by BAND Foundation and jointly implemented by Nature Kenya, The Peregrine Fund and BirdLife International. This work in Kenya is also supported as part of a programme to tackle vulture poisoning running jointly across Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, funded by Fondation Segré.