Kenya To Build East & Central Africa’s Largest Solar-Power Plant In Garissa

Kenya has arguably been making inroads as far as power connectivity in many parts of the country is concerned. This has been on diverse energy sources such as the World Bank-funded Last-Mile (main grid connectivity) project in the remotest of places, wind energy plants and other renewable energy sources. The government, through the Rural Electrification Authority which is the implementing agency in this project, has signed a $USD 135 Million solar energy pact with the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation to put up a 55-megawatt plant in Garissa, a north-eastern town in Kenya. 

The project, which shall sit on 85 hectares of land in Garissa, shall be a power plant which is expected to generate 76,470 annual megawatt hours (to be fed to the national grid) which is sufficient to power 625,000 homes while at the same time, reducing tremendously, carbon emissions by 64,190 tonnes per year and saving coal consumption by 25,000 tonnes annually. The Chinese are financing the project with Kenya’s positioning as a strategic clean energy source in mind, as the plant is expected to facilitate massive technology and skill-exchange between countries in the region, and internationally.

Image: Garissa is located about 350 kilometers north-east of Kenya's capital Nairobi ABC News

So far, a working agreement has been signed by the parties involved, and substantive work on the facility is anticipate to commence in July this year (2017), which shall extend to the next year. 

The Jiangxi Corporation has entered into a commercial-reseller arrangement with the Kenyan local power company, the Kenya Power & Lighting Company, to sell power generated from the plant, which has a retail markup cost pegged at Kshs 12 ($0.12) per unit-which is Kshs 6 lower than the cost of diesel. This is expected to cut down dependency on such fossil based fuels.

Kenya, being a country that is endowed with relatively-high solar radiation levels throughout the year, has immense strategic relevance on solar energy projects. It is worth noting that Kenya has upwards of 300 days of sunshine annually, which is double Germany’s — the country that leads the whole world in solar energy-production with an installed solar capacity of more than 40,000 megawatts. Kenya’s industrial role is also a factor that plays out prominently, when such investors seek investment destinations in emerging frontiers. That explains the reason why multi-national corporations and other global investment firms usually set base in Kenya, as a hub in the Eastern and Central Africa continuum, and renewable energy investments are no exception.

Kenya’s total power capacity stands at 2,294MW, with solar power making up for less than one per cent of that. The implication thereof, is that we still have a long way to go, in as far as solar energy-institutionalization in the country is concerned. The proposed solar farm, with around 210,000 solar panels in place, is by far be the biggest in East and Central Africa, constructed through a concessional loan from the China’s Export/Import Bank (Exim Bank). The China Jianxi Corporation has plans in place, to set up 100 small solar plants in off-grid towns such as Mandera, Garissa, Turkana, Wajir, Lamu and Tana River, with the sole aim of lighting up the majority of homes to alternative energy source in the next financial year starting June.