Kenya’s Solar Clean Leap-Africa’s Largest Solar Car Park at Garden City Mall

Kenya has continued to make massive clean leaps in embracing clean energy options for its growing economy. With the recent growth in the infrastructure and real estate in general, solutions have to be sought to meet the demands for energy and in this case cleaner energy solutions.

Garden City Mall, Nairobi Kenya opened in September, and sports the largest solar carport in Africa, a move that will assist in reaching the country's goal of cutting carbon emissions by around 745 tonnes annually. This solar carport will use "dual-mode" technology which is a highly innovative energy solution that provides solar energy during the day with the result that less is used from the grid; and when the grid is down the system also reduces the consumption of costly diesel back up and enabling significant cost savings.

Depending on conditions,  the solar electricity will work alongside diesel generators, especially in places where the grid fails and there is a backup generator available, or the region has no grid power at all; the dual mode technology applies here in the sense that the solar installation will simply synchronize with the generators and offers a possibility of switching between the grid or the generator whilst still using electricity produced by the solar panels.

By using solar energy, this ensures a reduction of power consumed from the grid, and also the amount consumed by generators. In the case of the Garden City Mall the solar electricity generated will be  used for lights and powering machinery like the escalators.  The dual-mode system will be effective as it ensures a consistent energy supply is produced while reducing diesel and grid consumption, and above this move being a more environmentally friendly energy solution, it will help reduce energy bills for Garden City’s retail tenants.

This unique dual-mode technology system, supplied by Solar Century, is suitable for urban areas where land is at a premium yet energy needs to be supplied on demand. Installing the panels on the roof of a car park makes use of otherwise unused roof space. This solar carport at the topmost storey will provide shade and the 3,300 solar panels on the carport will generate 1256 mwh of electricity per year and consequently reduce carbon dioxide emissions and drastically reduce the service charge and occupancy costs for retail tenants.

Funding for the installation of this solar carport came from NVI Energy’s Solar4Africa initiative.  NVI is a developer and distributor of solar-generation projects across Eastern and Southern Africa, and will provide guarantees covering power and equipment performance, a 12 year financed solution that enables Garden City to harness the power of renewable energy overcoming many of the financial barriers that can often overwhelm commercial solar projects. This move will also help Garden City achieve its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It will also be a showcase for environmental design, incorporating a range of energy saving solutions. This happens to be the second dual-mode solar system in Kenya by Solar Century; the first being East Africa’s largest ground mount system for Williamson Tea in a project that has helped reduce the company’s energy bills tremendously.