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Solar Panel Project to Light Up Schools

Jan 05, 2010 - Business Daily - All Africa Global Media

Two private companies have been commissioned to install solar panels in 117 schools and health centres in arid and semi arid regions in a move geared to reduce Kenya's reliance on hydro-generated electricity and lower the cost of energy to poor communities.

Power Options Limited and Go Solar Limited have been awarded a Sh273.6 million tender to install, test and commission solar panels in schools and health centres that have never had power and which are to be used as test grounds for the eventual use of solar energy across the country.

"This project is specifically for regions that are far off the national power grid" said Mr Patrick Nyoike, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy. Mr Nyoike, however, said the pilot project will not be extended to other facilities in urban centres. "This project is for affirmative action to ensure the arid and semi arid regions are also included in the development agenda," the PS said in an interview with Business Daily.

The government set aside Sh500 million in the 2009/2010 budget to light up isolated regions such as North Eastern province.

The regions have sunshine through out the year and could be Domestic consumersused as a test case to eventually roll out the use of solar power across the country.

"This project is one of the success stories of the rural electrification programmes," said Mr Nyoike. The project comes barely four months after Prime Minister Raila Odinga appointed a team to fast-track the expansion of the generation and use of clean and renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and biogas.

Economic recovery

Kenya plans to commission the national use of clean energy by 2012 that will help install an additional power generation capacity of 2,000MW as the country expects demand for electricity to pick up with the economic recovery early next year, putting the current supply levels under serious strain. The task force will investigate and recommend measures to speed up the construction and commissioning of the accelerated green energy programme by June 2012. The UN says Kenya can reduce the cost of energy to manufacturers and domestic consumers if it tapped into solar and wind energy in its vast and dry northern regions.

According to the UN, Kenya has the capacity to generate more than 3,000 MW of electricity if it tapped into wind and solar energy in its vast northern districts. The utilization of clean energy could help inject additional power to the national grid to assuage the fears of the manufacturing sector and potential investors who have grown cold feet in putting their money in Kenya. Manufacturers have blamed the high cost of locally produced goods on the expensive electricity tariffs.

Kenya could avoid irregular electricity supplies if it tapped into clean energy. A power crisis that hit the country between August and October last year affected production and was blamed on inadequate rainfall and failure to implement planned generation projects on schedule.

Domestic consumers

The increased generation of additional power could spur the manufacturing sector which could be left to utilise the current supply installation with the solar generated power left to domestic consumers.

Last year, the Africa Development Bank (ADB) injected Sh32 billion into a private consortium to develop an initial 300MW from wind energy in Turkana district -- equal to around 25 per cent Kenya's current installed energy capacity. This follows the Government's introduction of new legislation covering electricity generation.

Kenya obtains more than 75 per cent of its power from hydro. The country's only existing source of renewable energy is the geothermal power, which however has not been exploited to its maximum. For example, while Kenya has geothermal potential to produce 3,000MW of electricity, geothermal sources account for only 11 per cent of the country's approximate 1150MW existing capacity.


Updated: 2003/07/28