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Power agency earns Sh431m from Garissa solar plant

Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation chairman Simon Gicharu
Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation chairman Simon Gicharu. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An electrification agency has earned Sh431 million in the five months to March from the region’s largest solar power plant in Garissa.

Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), formerly Rural Electrification Authority (REA), sold 28.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) that have helped curb the rise in electricity prices.

The firm say it will earn at least Sh1 billion in full year from the sale of solar energy to Kenya Power for onward supply to homes and businesses.

"Garissa power plant has proved to be an exemplary project and it has many environmental advantages and due to that, we shall be investing more on sustainable means of energy production in future," REREC chairman Simon Gicheru said yesterday in Mombasa.

The 54.6 megawatt (MW) plant, the largest in East and Central Africa, started injected power to the grid and has helped cut reliance on expensive thermal power with drop in use of cheaper hydro power following the dry weather.

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“We are going heavy on renewable energy for faster electrification of off-grid areas and households,” Mr Gicharu said.

Solar experts reckon that Kenya, like most African nations, has a high potential to generate solar energy given high radiation levels from the sun throughout the year.

The intensity of sunlight, not heat levels, determines solar electricity production.

Kenya has more than 300 days of sunshine per year, double Germany’s — which is the global leader in solar energy production with an installed capacity of more than 40,000 megawatts. Mr Gicharu said solar energy offers Kenya the shortest route to lighting off-grid towns that have for long relied on expensive diesel generators to produce electricity.

The agency plans to set up 147 small solar plants in off-grid towns, with the aim of lighting up the majority of homes starting next month.

The target towns include Mandera, Garissa, Turkana, Wajir, Lamu and Tana River. Mr Gicharu said connecting off-grid towns by stretching the national grid would take longer and gulp enormous resources, making solar the most viable alternative.

The injection of the Sh13 billion Chinese loan funded solar power to the national grid came weeks after Kenya increased its share of cheaper wind power.

The 310MW Turkana Wind Farm injected 146 million kWh in February.

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