By Julie Ojiambo
This blog post originally appeared on the Brighter Green website on June 22, 2013.
Why Kenya is Prime for Solar Energy
Kenya lies conveniently on the equator, and as a result receives direct solar energy throughout the year. The use of solar energy is a relatively new concept in Kenya and many believe that the use of solar energy is a better alternative to traditional power sources and will help eliminate the problem of a lack of electricity in rural areas. A shift to solar energy would involve educating people on this new technology, as many do not know the benefits of solar energy, but some communities have already started embracing solar energy as an alternative energy source.
Though the initial cost of installation might be high, it has been proven to save money in the long run and is easy to maintain (a properly installed solar system can last about twenty years). Additionally, solar panel installation does not take too long, installing solar panels in an average sized household takes about a day while other larger establishments such as tented camps and resorts can take up to four days. A 450 watt system is enough to supply a family with lights and provide power to operate a microwave, television, and kettle. A system of up to 3,000 watts is enough to supply a household with electricity for all its basic needs, including laundry machines and kitchen appliances.*
There are quite a range of solar products available in the market to suit consumers’ needs. A full solar home system costs about Kshs 11,395/135.67 U.S. Dollars (USD), solar lanterns cost approximately Kshs 1,180/ 14.05 USD and solar phone chargers go for a price of Kshs 2,450/ 29.17 USD, they are indeed very handy commodities.
Like most other industries the solar energy industry in Kenya has its fair share of challenges. Firstly the initial cost of installation may be high for the average person, – some of the products have to be supplemented by batteries at an additional cost. But mostly, solar energy is very valuable to the Kenyan people.
The use of solar energy will also help reduce detrimental environmental activities that contribute to climate change. The use of solar energy may help stop the degradation of forests, particularly the Mau forest Kenyans admire and cherish, as people move away from using wood for electricity. This shift towards solar energy is needed to sustain a green environment and to generate power for almost every Kenyan household. If embraced by the people of Kenya, connectivity will increase from the current 15 percent and the country will be a step closer to achieving its 2030 plan: a vision to create a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030.
*These figures were obtained by inquiring roadside street vendors in Kenya.