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Kenya: Accelerating Use of Photo-Voltaic Solar Panels, Hydro-Power & BioGas

Kenya’s Ministry of Energy is running a programme of installing solar photovoltaic electricity generators in public institutions in arid and semi arid areas (ASAL) which are situated more than 15 kilometers from the national grid.

The programme has been running from the financial year 2005/2006 and was initially set to benefit boarding Primary Schools, both boarding and day Secondary Schools, Dispensaries and Health Centers.

However, the scope has been expanded to include District Commissioners and District Officers offices, police stations and shallow water wells.

Raphael Khazenzi

The Ministry of Energy, Acting Director of Renewable Energy, Raphael Khazenzi (R.ENG., Bsc., M.I.E.K.) says the design criteria for the solar electricity generators to institutions, is such that lighting is provided for 8 hours and power for 5 computers for schools and one computer for primary schools for similar duration.

Power to facilitate printing for 2 hours for 1 printer is also provided. In health facilities, power is provided for lighting for 12 hours and for operating one refrigerator using Direct Current (DC).

Since the commencement of the programme, 345 institutions have already been installed with solar PV systems at a cost of Sh 949 million. The installed capacity of these institutions is 0.85 MW peak.

Mr Khazenzi explained that installation of solar electricity generators is on-going in another 53 institutions at a cost of Sh 121 million. Additional 167 institutions including 17 shallow water wells are targeted too.

The projects have been funded by the government and due to the success they have registered, the Government of the Kingdom of Spain has come forth to support the programme and is proving funding to a tune of Euro 10 million (Sh 1.3 billion) for installation of Solar PV systems in 380 institutions.

The Ministry is also embarking on developing hybrid power systems whereby one source of energy generation resource is used in an integrated manner to complement each other.

These hybrid systems could be diesel, but when wind energy is available, it get injected into the system to offset the use of diesel.The Ministry has contracted Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to install them in various isolated power stations to replace the expensive diesel currently being used.

A pilot project for the installation of wind hybrid systems to Maikoma Boys and Maikoma Girls Secondary schools already fitted with with solar has been completed. “Following these successful pilots, the ministry is upgrading to pilot hybrids in oil-fired off-grid power stations,” the Acting Director says.

These stations include; Habasweini, 50 kW (Diesel/ Wind/ solar) on going; Elwa (Diesel/Solar); Merti (Diesel/Wind) wind turbines and Hola (Diesel/Solar). These installations are pilot projects at a larger scale and and will inform engineers of the viability of hybrid systems on the isolated grids.

The Ministry of Energy, through the renewable energy department, is also promoting the development and exploration of small hydro power units whose potential is estimated at 3,000 MW, but only about 30 MW has been developed.

The Ministry has identified over 300 sites with a potential of about 600MW and is carrying out studies for other areas. Assessment has also been done in all the five drainage basins of Tana, Athi, Lake Victoria, Rift Valley and Ewaso Nyiro North.

Pre-feasibility studies have been conducted in the past two years at 21 sites which are in close proximity to tea factories indicating good potential for growing areas. These sites are essentially in Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) areas which have taken up the studies and are looking for funds to develop them. A total of US $ 58 million is required. This financial year, the Ministry will carry out another feasibility study in 14 sites.

The Ministry is also promoting and demonstrating biogas technology free of charge at its Energy Centers. It gives information and advice to potential users, trains tradesmen and supervises biogas construction.

The Ministry, in collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Science, Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), has constructed a 385 m3 biogas digester that utilities sewage to run a 45 KVA generator to be used in the kitchen.

Discussions are being carried out with Maseno University and Masinde Muliro Universities as the next beneficiaries. The success of these pilots will be used to formulate a programme of installing sewage-based biogas digesters in public institutions.

Further, the Ministry intends to pilot the production of biogas from flowers to be used to generate electricity for flower firms and then export the surplus to the grid.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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