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KenGen eyes floating solar plants in three hydropower dams


Kiambere Dam in Embu County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

State-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company #ticker:KENGEN (KenGen) is mulling a floating solar energy installation in three of its key hydropower dams, which experts say is a cheaper option for renewable energy than land-based solar farms.

Norwegian firm Multiconsult said it will conduct a pre-feasibility study for floating solar PV (F-PV) potential on Kamburu, Kiambere and Turkwell reservoirs.

Under the study funded by the German development bank KfW, Multiconsult said it will review the power infrastructure at the sites, assess hydro turbines characteristics, operation of the reservoirs, water flow patterns and power evacuation in the grid, as well as provide recommendations about the integration of floating solar plant in hybrid operation with the existing infrastructure.

The social, environmental and climate aspects and associated risks will also be assessed.

“We believe that the future of power systems in many African countries will rely on low cost variable renewables working together with reliable and flexible hydropower reservoirs,” said Multiconsult vice president in charge of Energy Systems Ryan Anderson, in a statement.

“Multiconsult intends to help its clients to be at the forefront of this development. It is exciting that KenGen, with support from KFW, are looking to be a path-breaker for the continent in this regard,” he said.

The firm said the hybrid operation of the dams with floating solar PV (F-PV) plant will facilitate the management of power and water usage in an "appropriate and cost-effective way" in addition to water savings due to less evaporation from the reservoir. Hybrid hydropower-connected solar plants in the existing dams could offset the loss of electrical production due to variation in water levels, experts say.