Reducing Kenya’s Carbon Footprint: Malindi and Garissa Awe-Inspiring Solar Energy Projects
The world is going green, and renewable energy is a big thing in 2021, especially in Africa. If you had a chance to watch Daniel Attenborough’s video message at the opening of the United Nations Oceans Conference, you’d understand the sudden global push to adopt renewable energy such as Solar energy projects.
In Rural Kenya, Solar energy is nothing new. There’s been a lot of sensitization and adoption of solar energy with organizations like Greenlight Planet and Dlight pioneering campaigns to light-up the villages with affordable solutions. Renewable energy is one of Kenya’s key sub-sectors and among the most active in Africa, growing from nothing in 2009 to $1.3 billion in just a year. The government planned to have the country on 100% green energy by 2020, reducing its carbon footprint.
So far, major solar power plant projects have commenced in Malindi and Garissa. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), with the right policies, governance, regulation, and access to financial markets, Kenya, and sub-Saharan Africa, could achieve more than 65% of their energy needs by 2030.
So, Why Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is clean energy that’s non-toxic to the environment. It is sustainable, originating from inexhaustible sources, unlike fossil fuels. They are naturally occurring energy like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydro. Perhaps the most pressing reason why the world is going green is to end its dependence on fossil fuels.
Kenya has great potential in renewable energy sources. There’s abundant Solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal resources, a force behind its exploration. Due to the cost-approach, the country has prioritized geothermal, wind, and currently, solar fed mini-grids in Garissa, Malindi, and others.
Kenya’s Solar Potential
For a long time, solar power in Kenya has been seen as an option for rural electrification.
Kenya has very high insolation rates that average about seven peak sunshine hours with average daily insolation of 4-6 kWh/m2. According to experts, 13% of this energy can be converted into electricity because of the dispersion and conversion efficiency of PV(photovoltaic) modules. The PV installation per year is estimated at 23,046 TWh.
Photovoltaic or PV: photo = light, Photons are energy particles from the sun, while voltaic is the production of voltage or volts.
The government is currently running several solar power plant projects; Kenyatta University 10MW, Alten 40MW, Rumuruti 40MW, Eldosol 40MW, Radiant 40MW, Kopere 50MW, Malindi 52MW, and Garissa 55MW. This is in an aim to achieve 19,200 MW against the current demand of 15,000MW. See data above.
The Garissa 55 MW Solar Plant Project
The Garissa Solar Power Plant is located in, Mbalambala, Garissa County in Eastern Kenya. The 55MW solar power plant is the first of its kind in Kenya and the largest solar power plant in East and Central Africa. It consists of 200 solar panels installed in an area of 85 hectares. According to Rural Electrification & Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), the project is currently contributing about 2% of the total national energy mix, leading to a significant reduction of energy costs, promoting clean, sustainable, reliable, affordable electricity.
The solar project development included the construction of a 132KV bay at Kentraco Substation that links to the 132KV Bus bars. 5 km of 132KV transmission lines that have 16No. Pylons (towers) connecting the solar plant to the Kentraco Substation. Construction of a 33/132KV substation within the substation with a 50 MVA 33/132KV step-up transformer. The Garissa solar plant is a 50 MVA (as much as the installed capacity is 54.65 MW) solar generation plant with solar panels, step-up transformers, indoor 33kV switch room, and a control room complete with CCTV for surveillance.
Even without the solar output, the surrounding community was already ripping the benefits of its presence. The project has constructed a dispensary, drilled boreholes complete with tanks and pipping, developed a school, and built a 3km access road to the community farm. The solar plant connected to the grid is expected to supply up to 70,000 Garissa households, approximately 350,000 people.
The Malindi 52 MW Solar Power Plant
This Malindi solar plant is located about 120 km Northeast of Mombasa, in Malindi, Kilifi County. It’s a one-of-a-kind development project, being the first IPP-Owned power plant that’s proceeded to construction. The Malindi Solar Power plant began construction in 2019, aiming to reduce 44,500 tones of CO2 emissions per year. Its development backed by KES 4.3bn is a collaboration between the British government’s development finance agency and Globeleq, funds payable over 16 years.
According to Construction Review Online, the construction of this solar plant in Kilifi county is expected to strengthen Globeleq’s presence in East Africa. The 52 MW capacity power plant output will be sold directly to Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) for integration into the national power grid. Due to the increasing local energy demand, the power produced will be consumed locally.
In a visit to the Solar Plant, Jane Marriott, who is currently the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, stated that the project was awe-inspiring, being the first renewable energy project in the Coastal region. The project has offered 650 job opportunities to locals in Kilifi County.
The world is going green, with major corporations in all sectors, including automotive opting to switch to renewable energy. Is Africa ready? Solar energy development household projects in Kenya are a step in the right direction for Africa. It will set the pace to reduce emissions and significantly reduce the cost of electricity for citizens, improving their lives.