Solar-Powered Dairy Farming in Kenya

Image: Yogurt from the successful Kirwa Dairy

A farmer in Kenya is reaping massive benefits from solar-enhanced dairy-farming. His venture is an example of how the country is transitioning to the realization of the 7th Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that credits assurance of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In order to boost production, Willy Kirwa, a dairy farmer located in Eldoret (Western region of Kenya in the Rift Valley) invested $40,000 USD in a modern state-of-the art solar power system on his 50-acre farm to help in lighting and processing of milk. He has over time installed 30 solar panels with different capacity outputs (100 watts and 200 watts). Even though the installation cost was expensive, it has been confirmed that the project is lucrative and cheaper in the long-run. It is worth it because of the lack of monthly power overheads encountered using mains-grid electricity.

The farm needed a comfortable environment with enough lighting to boost his milk-production which currently stands at 600 liters per day, hence the need for the technology. Large scale milk production also needs processing machinery akin to solar powered milk cooling machine. The dairy farmer has installed a solar power system at his farm most specifically to power the milk cooling machine and light the cattle shed for milking. He has a milk-cooling facility that is directly connected to solar power source by power cables. Inside the cattle pen, some power bulbs are visible which are turned on whenever there is need for more light. He preferred using solar energy to other energy-sources because it is natural and cheaper to manage as compared to grid electricity that needs a lot of money to install in addition to the high monthly bills, given his large-scale milk production. The dairy farmer also opted to employ solar energy because he has many dairy cattle and the milk production is high. He had to acquire milk-processing machinery, which includes a milk cooling machine. He preferred to put up solar-energy to run the machine because it is easy to handle and maintain, which is also cheap.

The photovoltaic solar panels are connected in a way that they are easily hit directly by the sun, converting the sun’s rays into electricity. Solar panels on his roof are directly connected to power storage solar batteries with power inverters that convert the direct current (DC) power generated by solar panels to alternating current (AC) that is used on the grid. The power serves many other auxiliary purposes as it also lights cattle sheds that are turned on during milking very early in the morning and late in the evening after the sun has set. Apart from lighting the cattle shed, the renewable energy is also used in lighting his main house. This is just an example of the ancillary benefits of cheaper and cost-effective renewable-energy. He also prefers lighting during milking in order to boost milk production in the sense that the strong light attracts flies that could suck cows during the milking process, which would make them restless. The light also gives the cattle a warm and friendly environment, making them relaxed.  The farmer also plans to expand the solar plant for other domestic use.  

Image: Willy Kirwa feeding his cows