KENYA – Independent Power Producer (IPP) BTE Renewables (BTE) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have signed a US$10 million loan agreement for biodiversity conservation around the Kipeto wind farm in Kenya.
The facility recently went into commercial operation in July 2021 and the wind farm, the third in operation in the country, has a capacity of 100 MW.
The agreement is a US$10 million fixed-rate mezzanine loan from TNC and other private investors for the wind farm, as well as a commitment to provide annual funding for conservation initiatives throughout the 20-year life of the facility.
The loan will enable the implementation of the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)and the plan, which is considered ambitious by its initiators, includes working closely with the local community to protect flora and fauna.
The farm is operated by Kipeto Energy, a special purpose vehicle owned 88% by BTE, and 12% by the Kenyan company Craftskills.
The problem is that the wind farm is located in an area frequented by wildlife, particularly vultures and these birds of prey play an essential ecological role by making dead animals disappear.
The scavenger, even if it sometimes makes uncomfortable because of its appetite for dead animals, has however an undeniable sanitary role, since it cleans the savannah of the carcasses in a state of putrefaction thus avoiding the propagation of diseases potentially devastating for the fauna and the human.
According to the non-governmental organization (NGO) Birdlife International, seven of the eleven African vulture species are now threatened with extinction and over the past 50 years, the population of these large birds has declined by 80 to 97 percent, including a 92 percent decline for five African vulture species.
The situation is attributable to the human-wildlife conflict and it must be said that this cleaner has a very bad reputation with Kenyan herders who get rid of it with poisoned animal carcasses.
The promise of the BAP
The population of these wild animals could be further reduced by collisions with wind turbine blades in Kipeto, hence the interest of the BAP.
The plan “has been developed in consultation with various wildlife and nature conservation experts and includes a number of projects aimed at improving community livelihoods through the creation of local employment and the construction of improved animal enclosures, safe from predators,” said BTE.
At the same time, BTE, with technical support from TNC, will increase monitoring and carcass removal to prevent raptors from approaching the turbines.
The IPP will implement shutdown on-demand and raptor rescue protocols.
According to BTE, its biodiversity action plan includes both on-site mitigation measures and off-site vulture conservation interventions, including radio monitoring and community outreach programs, to reduce human-wildlife conflicts such as poisoning.