Flower farms turn to solar in power cost strategy


Flowers are grown in a greenhouse at a farm in Nakuru County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Flower farms are investing in solar power projects as they seek to cut on high electricity bills and frequent blackouts that cause heavy losses every year.

This comes after the power bill in March rose by Sh1.20 per unit after fuel surcharge increased to Sh3.54 per kilowatt hour (kWh) from February’s Sh2.61.

In March, the Energy Petroleum and Regulatory Authority (EPRA) increased petrol prices by Sh7.63 to Sh122.81 per litre and Sh5.75 more for a litre of diesel at Sh107.66.

High electricity bills mean high cost for flower farms since production is energy-intensive in areas such as cooling storages and greenhouses.

One of the flower farms that has installed photovoltaic is Shalimar Flower Farm in Naivasha.

The 428 kWp solar power system was installed by REDAVIA in Naivasha town. This is currently the biggest solar power plant yet deployed in Kenya by REDAVIA.

Shalimar is now reaping the benefits of reduced bills as power harnessed from the sun complements that from the utility grid.

Cutting costs for flower farms have increasingly become crucial for saving on high production costs at a time when the price of fertilisers, labour and air freight is high.

In July, for instance, freight charges on cut flowers rose by 127 per cent after a majority of cargo flights grounded operations on fears of Covid-19 spread.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC) chief executive Clement Tulezi said the cost of hauling a kilogramme of cut flower has risen from Sh138.45 to Sh314.18.

Panda Flower Farm has also installed about 100 kWh of solar system at its plant in Naivasha.

The system was installed by Solinc East Africa Limited to be used at cooling storage, which uses a lot of power.

The installation comes at a time when the value of exported flowers last year dropped by Sh2 billion to Sh102.1 billion. This followed poor sales of flowers in key markets such as the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands and France.

However, the high cost of solar solutions is a hindrance for many firms that are willing to invest in clean energies.

Ecoligo, a German startup, is helping them switch to solar with crowd-funded solar modules. Through this, investors contribute toward the systems and in return get interest.

Thereafter, ready-for-use solar units are installed on farms on a monthly fee for the electricity until the system is paid.

The $5.9 million (Sh647.8 million) project, which is implemented by the German Investment and Development Corporation (GDC), targets 19 projects in developing countries in four continents.