9 April 2012:
Smart Australian laser technology is poised to bring a huge
improvement to the lives of tens of millions of East Africans by
helping to ignite industrial, economic and jobs growth.
A state-of-art lidar (laser radar) system acquired by the CRC
for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment
(CRCCARE) to help prevent dust and atmospheric pollution in
Australia is being used to perfect the design of what could become
the world’s largest wind farm, at Lake Turkana in northern
The first stage of the vast project will have 365 turbines
producing 300 megawatts of power, possibly growing to as much as
2000MW in future. It is located in one of the remotest and poorest
desert regions on Earth, in the cradle where modern humans first
“It’s an absolutely massive project – in
renewable energy terms it’s the equivalent of discovering a
major oil field. It will supply 20-30 per cent of all
Kenya’s power needs, and potentially neighbouring East
African countries,” says John Sutton, of CRC CARE and Curtin
University, who developed the sophisticated lidar analytical
“We have been collaborating with scientists at Arizona State
University to extend the laser radar technology to wind energy
applications” said Mr Sutton.
The $775m Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is being built by an
international consortium led by Dutch firm KP&P Africa, and is
the largest single development in Kenya’s history.
Construction is due to begin in June, and energy generation in
2014. The first stage alone will make it the largest wind-farm in
“It’s in really unusual country, very hot, dry and
windy – like parts of Australia. At Turkana the jet stream is
channelled between two mountain ranges and blows at a steady
average of 11 metres a second, day and night,” Mr Sutton
explains. “The project needs detailed models and maps of the
wind flow over this complex terrain to design the farm and place
the turbines in the best locations.
The team used a pulsed coherent Doppler lidar “wind
tracer”, which uses a laser beam to scan and measure wind
vectors by bouncing light off wind-borne dust particles, over an
area of up to 400 square kilometres.
“Our technology was able to measure the wind field at points
every 100 metres across the entire landscape every 10 minutes with
precision. The results were used to validate the models being used
to design the wind farm.
“This is truly powerful technology. The wind farm means
the economies of Kenya and East Africa can now accelerate their
economic development. That in turn will bring a profound change to
the lives and opportunities of millions,” he says.
The Doppler lidar instrument was originally developed to measure
wind-shear at airports, but in CRC CARE the research team developed
algorithms that enabled it to analyse pollution plumes in the
atmosphere. These are currently being employed to help industry to
reduce dust and other forms of air contamination in Australia.
“For example it helps large miners to dramatically reduce
the cost of monitoring and controlling dust pollution from mining,
stockpiling and ship loading activities.
“Basically it enables us to study atmospheric processes
– whether for the purpose of preventing industrial pollution,
detecting windshear at airports or for generating energy more
efficiently,” he explains.
The managing director of CRC CARE, Professor Ravi Naidu, said that
the novel application of the lidar in East Africa was an example of
how clean Australian technology could make a major difference to
the lives and prospects of millions around the world.
“This is an important new use of a technology which we
have invested in, because it will enable several developing
countries to achieve much faster growth while sidestepping the
traditional polluting phase of industrial development.
“This is truly clean development and is in keeping with
our philosophy that it is better to prevent contamination in the
first place than to clean it up afterwards.”
Professor Naidu said that CRC CARE was working on a number of
other technologies for clean water and energy, in partnership with
institutions in countries such as India and China as well as
organisations in Australia that could bring profound benefit both
to Australians and to millions in the developing world.
John Sutton, CRC CARE and WindDriven PL, ph +61 (0)417 919 415
Prof. Ravi Naidu, Managing Director, CRC CARE, +61 (0)8 8302 5041
or +61 (0)407 720 257
Peter Martin, Acting Communications Manager, CRC CARE, +61 (0)417