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February 16, 2019

Squatters force delay of 40MW French-led solar project in Nandi

Solar panels at a parking bay. /FILE
Solar panels at a parking bay. /FILE

The construction of a 40-megawatt solar project in Tinderet faces hurdles after squatters chased away surveyors.

The project is to be constructed on 250 acres leased from the family of former agriculture minister William Odongo Omamo at Kimwani in Nandi.

Kopere Solar Park, owned by Paris listed Voltalia has signed a lease agreement with the family of the late Omamo. The property is 3,000 acres.

However, the squatters claim there was no public participation between the residents and the leasing company and neither has the county government been notified.

The Nandi county government has been silent on the project. Trade CEC Jacob Tanui said the project was a private enterprise and they are not involved.

The 800 squatters on the expansive farm said they want to be settled before the property is leased out and that proper public participation is undertaken.

On Saturday, about 20 surveyors who were marking the beacons for the leased area were chased away by the squatters. They demanded the involvement of local leaders and their fate to be addressed before anything happens on the land.

The squatters’ spokesperson, Kiptoo Chepkwony, said their grandfathers were evicted from the area to pave the way for the establishment of agricultural land by settlers in early 1940s.

“When the settlers left, the land was handed over to agricultural development corporation who in the early 1970s allocated the former minister without considering us,” Chepkwony said.

Kopere Solar Park intends to invest Sh1.03 billion in the project and has been waiting the approval from the government.

The solar scheme will need the construction of a step-up sub-station and a 1.8 kilometre transmission line of 132KV connecting its supply to Ol’Lessos for connection to the national grid.

On Tuesday the firm sought security for its officials to carry out the demarcation. Nandi county police commander Patrick Wambani said they were ready to assist.

The plant is on the border of Nandi and Kisumu counties. French renewable energy firm Voltalia signed a 20-year power sale contract with Kenya Power at an undisclosed price.

Project delays tend to raise the cost of funds as financiers start demanding repayment on agreed dates.

Investors may also cause demand that the tax payer foots the bill if the time planned for connection to the grid is delayed.

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