Construction of the first large scale solar power project in Kenya is expected to start next year once the Kenya Energy Generating Company (KenGen) selects contractor for the 10 MW CSP project.
KenGen Managing Director Eddy Njoroge said in Nairobi on Wednesday that feasibility study on the commercial viability of large scale solar project has given positive results."
We shall start with a 10 megawatts project in one of the areas that we have selected,” he told in Nairobi on Wednesday.
He said the project will use the concentrated solar power system that uses lenses and mirrors to concentrate solar light into one area. The light produces heat that is then harnessed to run generators that produce electricity.
The feasibility study was done in Lamu, Isiolo and Magadi and returned results of viable and adequate solar energy to warrant investment in the resource. It was not however clear how the company will finance the project, the exact dates of the commissioning of the project and how much the project will cost.
Kenya ’s first solar atlas that was developed in 2008 indicated that the country has a high energy potential for development of grind connected solar power plants.
The Kenya Solar Atlas that was developed in 2008 under a project known as Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment found that Kenya receives an estimated four to six kilowatt hours of solar energy per square metre per day (6KWh/m3/day).
KenGen’s investment in the solar project is part of its efforts to diversify its energy sources from predominant hydro sources to renewable like solar, wind and geothermal.
The majority state owned company currently produces 70 percent of the total power supplied to the national grid.
But 64 percent of the company’s total installed capacity of 1, 182MW comes from hydro sources, which are vulnerable to rainfall availability.
The project will become the country’s first large scale solar energy generation and the first such in the Eastern Africa region. Solar energy is mostly used in small and often low income households mostly for lighting.
Solar power equipment is often expensive compared to the alternatives of household sources of electricity despite the zero- rating of the import duties by the government.
Estimates show that to install for a 4 bedroom house that has a television set, a fridge and a water heater, including security lighting systems will cost on average is 2,500 U.S. dollars, which is not an easy sum to raise for many Kenyans. The cost is higher when a solar power back-up system is installed.
Kenya ’s Energy Regulatory Commission requires that all premises within the jurisdiction of a local authority with hot water requirements of a capacity exceeding 100 litres per day must install solar water heating equipment, a policy requirement that is expected to increase use of solar energy in Kenya ’s households.