There are 600 Kilometres of roads in Lamu County out of which only six kilometres is tarmacked. Of the Sh1.7billion allocated to the county from the national coffers, over Sh1.2 billion is spent on recurrent expenditure.
Much of mainland Lamu remains under curfew and drug abuse and radicalisation among the youth is rampant.
Such are the observations of many who visit the remote county said by most accounts to be Kenya’s poorest.
Things could change soon in a series of firsts.
East Africa’s largest power station, the Lamu Coal power plant, is set to be built in Lamu County near Manda Bay.
Producing 1,050megawatts, it is set to generate almost half of all the generation capacity in the country.
East Africa’s tallest structure will be the 210 metre tall stack pipe for piping away smoke from the power plant.
East Africa’s first desalination plant, made to take in salty seawater and turn it into fresh drinkable water for producing the steam to turn the plant’s turbines, is also set to be at this facility.
According to consulting engineers Kurrent Technologies, the Lamu Power Plant is the largest Independent Power Producer project in Africa.
Set to cost $2billion, the plant which will sit on 865 acres of land is likely to pump in over Sh40billion into the Lamu economy.
2,000 workers will be employed directly either as drivers, mechanics, loaders, dockworkers, stevedore men, masons, carpenters, electricians and so on.
Services like catering, accommodation, banking, sanitation, petrol stations and many more will be required.
Sanyay Gandhi, COO of Kurrent Technologies, says Lamu County leaders have been alerted to provide young men and women for employment.
“We have spoken to the MCAs from all the 10 wards and we have asked them to each give us 100 youths for employment,” says Gandhi.
He says that in addition to the employment, the consortium of Gulf Energy and Centum Investments that is carrying out the project will also provide fresh water for free to 500 residential workers and the village next to the power plant.
The construction itself will be carried out by Power China. Centum will provide financing and Gulf will lead the technical know-how.
The working of the plant in itself is a simple process.
Coal imported from South Africa will arrive at a specially built berth at Lamu harbour where it will be wheeled via a conveyor belt to the plant on the mainland.
The coal will be sent into a crusher that will use steel balls to crush it into fine powder.
From here the coal powder will be sent into the boilers where it will be ignited to burn at extremely high temperatures.
Desalinated water in cylinders in the boiler will heat to steam and be directed to turn turbines that will produce the energy for generation of power.
There will be three generation units each producing 350Mw equivalent to what the recent Ol Karia 280Mw projects will produce once an additional 70Mw power plant is put up.
Of the burnt coal, the ash will be deposited in an ash yard while the smoke will be passed through filters.
There will be a substation and a transformer where power will be scaled up from about 21,000 volts to over 440,000 volts for transmission on high voltage lines.
The power will be brought to the Nairobi East (Dandora) substation for redistribution.
The Dandora substation has for decades been the most important substation in the country owing to the fact that majority of power generation in the country was hydro taking place in the eastern and central regions of Kenya.
It will be rivalled in this regard by the giant substation coming up at Suswa. This substation will take power from Ol Karia, from the Loiyangalani 300Mw wind power project and from the massive Ethiopia-Kenya 2,000Mw power line.
Lamu Power will itself use up about 68.5Mw of the power it produces meaning it will give to the national grid 981.5Mw.
According to Sanjay Gandhi, the clean coal technology to be used will also mean that instead of disposing of waste such as ash in land fills, the same can be used to build roads and the kind of wall boards used for partitioning offices.
Sulphur dioxide emitted as smoke will be mixed with lime to remove it from the emission and will react to firm gypsum which is used in making cement.
As big as the project is, it will be dwarfed by the South African coal power plant being built at Mengupi which will produce 5,000+ megawatts or the equivalent of the Jubilee government power pledge in a single plant.