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Why Solar Energy Works For Off-Grid Communities In Kenya
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Guest post by: Dr Daniel McGahey AIEMA, Regional Director Africa, INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE Group – Daniel McGahey has worked on climate change, environmental management, livelihoods and rural development issues in Africa for over 15 years in the capacity of programme developer, project leader, consultant and researcher. He previously led climate change programme development and management for a large African based conservation NGO (African Wildlife Foundation) and has expertise in community-based conservation, ecosystem-based adaptation, landscape/forest restoration and offsets (REDD+), fuel-efficient cookstove programmes and climate vulnerability and risk assessment tools.

 

 

Access to a reliable and affordable supply of energy is the bedrock of modern day life. But for billions around the world, it is still inaccessible. Finding a way to bring clean energy to these underserved communities is the first step in helping them to build a stronger economy and improving their lives. It enables new businesses to establish and grow, creating employment and prosperity. At the same time, it frees up people, especially women, from time-consuming chores to take on other tasks including paid employment. Using lighting, other than harmful kerosene, extends the day and provides a better environment for children to learn both in school and at home.

 

 

But connecting many small, rural and remote communities in developing countries to the grid is not a viable option. In the past, such communities have depended on kerosene and diesel to provide lighting and power for machinery but these are harmful to health and environment and can be dangerous to use.

 

 

Yet in countries such as Kenya, with its position straddling the equator, sunshine is in abundance and the opportunities to generate electricity using photovoltaic (PV) systems are enormous. A steady supply of sunshine for a reliable number of hours in the day means that Kenya can count on an average of 5kWh/m²/day (1,850 kWh/m²/year) solar power available throughout the country throughout the year – so solar power should be a “no-brainer.”

 

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In terms of clean, renewable energy, solar power has a number of advantages over the alternative options of wind or water. Firstly, certainly in countries such as Kenya, the availability of the solar resource is fairly ubiquitous and, on a micro-scale, within communities, it is relatively evenly distributed. In the case of water or wind energy, the ability to generate power may vary according to proximity to a suitable water course for hydro power or an open or hilltop site for wind generation. Solar power production is also more stable than wind and hydro energy in terms of the proportion of energy production relative to the availability of the resource. This is important as tensions can arise between households within communities and between neighbouring communities where the availability or reliability of energy is variable.

 

 

But there are a number of ways to deliver a solar energy solution.

 

 

Around 30 million Kenyans, (75% of the population) in Kenya live without electricity, 95% of whom are located in off-grid rural areas, which are simply not viable for larger solar installations.

 

 

Solar Home Systems (SHS) have been popular, with an estimated 320,000 households in 2014 already using them to provide energy for individual homes – the largest market in Africa. However, solar power can deliver so much more than the needs of just one household, and current pay-as-you-go models are beyond the means of a large percentage of consumers at the bottom of the pyramid.

 

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INTASAVE Energy has developed a solar nano-grid (SONGs) solution which combines the advantages of solar PV panels to supply energy and an innovative energy distribution solution. This allows for surplus energy, after the needs of households for lighting and mobile phone charging have been met, to be used for community and agricultural uses. The solar panels are installed on the roof of a dedicated solar hub building and residents use highly efficient rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to power their lighting and appliances in their homes or businesses. This leaves a surplus of 20-50% of solar energy which can be used for other purposes such as community refrigeration or agri-processing, a much more versatile solution with greater community benefits than the single solar unit per household.

 

 

This week the first INTASAVE SONGs are being deployed in Lemolo B and Echareria, in Nakuru County, Kenya, with further installations planned across Kenya and beyond. The anticipation in the communities has been great and the enthusiasm as lights are first switched on and the community posho mills grind their first quantities of corn into flour has translated into a significant number of new people coming forward to sign new energy service contracts. The first results prove again that, in these environments, solar energy really is a no-brainer!

 

 

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Daniel-McGahey-186x212Guest post by: Dr Daniel McGahey AIEMA, Regional Director Africa, INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE Group – Daniel McGahey has worked on climate change, environmental management, livelihoods and rural development issues in Africa for over 15 years in the capacity of programme developer, project leader, consultant and researcher. He previously led climate change programme development and management for a large African based conservation NGO (African Wildlife Foundation) and has expertise in community-based conservation, ecosystem-based adaptation, landscape/forest restoration and offsets (REDD+), fuel-efficient cookstove programmes and climate vulnerability and risk assessment tools.

 

 

For more information on how INTASAVE Energy is bringing sustainable, scalable and economically beneficial solar power to off-grid communities in developing regions around the world through its unique Solar Nano Grid (SONG) model, please visit www.intasave-energy.org.

 

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