Economy

KPA shifts to solar power plant in green port plans

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The new container terminal at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is the latest heavy power consumer to embrace the shift towards renewable energy after it rolled out plans to commission a new solar plant, as part of the green strategy at the Mombasa port.

The five-10 megawatts power plant will be installed within the port and will also help it cut down on electricity bills.

A feasibility study conducted by energy and marine consultancy ABL Group has picked two possible brownfield sites for the installation of a solar photovoltaic plant to generate renewable energy-powered shore power or ‘cold ironing’ at the Mombasa port.

The project was commissioned following the proposed introduction of the Green Ports Policy by the KPA, envisaging that all vessels at the Mombasa port are to turn off onboard generators and operate from shore power.

Depending on the size of the ship, all ships are required to switch off engines to save power and reduce pollution at any port and recharge offshore with some taking between eight-80 hours to recharge.

The policy also says the solar-powered cold ironing’ could end oil-fired emissions from vessels at the port and reduce the cost of electricity, which has been on the rise in recent months.

This comes at a time when governments are dealing with the rising nightmare of air pollution from docked ships.

The green policy identifies the shore-to-ship power strategy — a solution that makes ports more sustainable, reducing emissions from ships while berthed — as one of the technologies that can cut emissions by at least 90 percent in harbour areas as given by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

The plan notes that as an international best practice of a green port, the installation of shore power technology for the Mombasa port should be considered.

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Previous studies on shore-to-ship power connection have looked at the expected loads and connection time as well as the requirements for voltage and frequency.

Consultancy ABL found small photovoltaic installations could generate enough power to decarbonise tankers and freighters running fossil fuel generators while berthed at the Mombasa port.

“A study conducted in 2021 indicated that 25 percent of vessels’ emissions are generated whilst stationary at the port. Utilising electrical power from shore brings significant reductions in emissions,” says Aimee Besant, energy storage lead at ABL Group.

“However, this study went one step further in exploring the opportunity to generate the electricity from 100 percent clean local solar PV resources, creating an entirely green contribution to the shore power system.”

The scope of work included the provision of a cost indication of a correctly sized solar plant and an evaluation of the typical vessel consumption demand and wider energy demand of the port and berth.

Ms Besant says the study found that a significant reduction in the local burning of heavy fuel oils can be secured from the use of cold ironing, resulting in an improvement in local air quality.

“As cold ironing is being increasingly considered in different countries, this project reflects the scale of the opportunity for other ports around the world to explore the installation of shore power generated from their local green energy resource, as well as the additional potential when combined with energy storage solutions such as lithium batteries or hydrogen,” said Ms Besant.

Although this study was designed to assess the feasibility of solar PV-generated cold ironing, it has been expanded to explore the feasibility of additional renewable power sources or energy storage.

The drafting of the Mombasa Port Green Policy was commissioned in 2014, led by The Cornell Group Inc. USA and funded by Trade Mark East Africa.

One of the key action plans that the policy prioritised was an investment in cold ironing systems. This would enable Mombasa port to match the emissions reduction targets of world-class ports.

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ABL Group provides a range of technical services across renewable energy including wind, solar, energy storage and hydrogen, as well as electrical engineering and cables, and maritime segments, to offer comprehensive support in the installation of shore power solutions, from initial research and development, concept development, engineering, to construction.

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