NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The longest power outage in Kenyans’ memory remained a mystery Sunday after the state electricity company blamed Africa’s largest wind farm, which in turn blamed the power grid.
Some of Kenya’s more than 50 million people, including residents of the capital, Nairobi, had access to electricity again some 24 hours after a massive blackout on Friday night. It was an embarrassing situation for the country, which is considered the economic center of East Africa, and seeks to promote itself as the technology hub of the continent, but it still faces problems due to alleged mismanagement and poor infrastructure.
Hundreds of people were stranded in the dark for hours at Kenya’s main international airport in Nairobi, prompting Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkumen to issue a rare public apology in a country where tourism is an important part of the economy.
“This situation will not happen again,” Morcumen declared.
The director of the Kenya Airports Authority has been sacked after it failed to start a generator serving the main international terminal.
Just before midnight on Saturday, state-run Kenya Power gave the first detailed explanation for the power outage, saying it was due to a loss of electricity generation from the company’s wind farm at Lake Turkana, Kenya’s largest wind farm, causing an imbalance. This led to the disruption of all other main generating units and stations, which led to a complete power outage from the network.
However, Lake Turkana Wind Power issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. Instead, it indicated that it had to disconnect from the grid due to “an overvoltage situation in the national grid system, which, in order to avoid serious damage, automatically shuts down the wind farm.” At that time, the plant produced approximately 15% of the country’s output.
The company added that this outage must be immediately compensated by other power generators in the system, but the continued power outages on the national grid prevented the wind farm from returning to work.
Kenya Power indicated that it was not even able to resort to importing power from neighboring Uganda, a relatively quick option that was not available for some reason.
“We are working together to restore the Ugandan link so that we can improve our attempts to get the network back on track,” he said.
Kenya gets almost all of its electricity from renewable sources, a fact the country will promote next month when it hosts Africa’s first climate summit.
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