NAIROBI, June 28 (Reuters) - A major new power line that will connect the remote northern region of Kenya to the national grid, and will be used to transmit wind power, should be completed by the end of this year, a senior government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The East African nation is ramping up electricity production and investing in its grid to keep up with growing demand for power and to reduce frequent blackouts.
It relies heavily on renewables such as geothermal and hydro power. Private company Lake Turkana Wind is building Kenya's biggest wind power scheme at Lake Turkana which is expected to start producing some power in September and will be able to start sending power to the grid once the power line is ready in December.
Construction on the 428 km, 400-kilovolt power line, which will run from Loiyangalani in northern Kenya to Suswa in the centre of the country, started in November and had been due to be completed by October but has been delayed by demands for compensation from landowners along the route and other issues.
Once the Lake Turkana Wind Power scheme starts operation it will initially supply up to 90 MW of electricity but will eventually have the capacity to supply 310 MW.
"The transmission line is now being accelerated," Fernandes Barasa, managing director of the state-run Kenya Electricity Transmission Company, said in an interview.
"Earlier it was supposed to be completed by October, but because of some delays - issues along the route - we have pushed it back by two months so that we complete it by December 2016," Barasa said.
He said some land values along the route had been inflated and the issue took longer than expected to resolve, requiring the help of the state-run National Land Commission and political leaders.
Kenya plans to add 5,000 km of power lines to its existing 3,800-km network by 2017. Only a third of the country's 44 million people are connected to the grid, according to its energy ministry.
Barasa said another power line between Kenya and Ethiopia should be completed in early 2018.
"The lines will be done by December 2017 and the substation by February 2018. So basically we expect the infrastructure to be operational by the end of February 2018," he said. (Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Susan Fenton)