‘Africa’s largest carport PV installation’ launched in Kenya

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Africa’s largest carport PV system to date has been completed and connected in Nairobi, Kenya, at a newly opened half-billion-dollar flagship business park complex.

The 858kWp plant is on the top storey of a car park at Garden City Mall, part of an integrated residential, retail and office development worth US$540 million. The PV was developed by UK-headquartered Solarcentury, which has African offices in Nairobi and in Ghana, in conjunction with the SolarAfrica Platform, which was put together by renewable energy developer and investor NVI Energy to work on commercial scale projects in the continent.

The rooftop solar facility was inaugurated with a launch ceremony this morning, while the Garden City complex itself was only officially opened last week. This morning’s PV launch was attended by the principal secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Joseph K Njoroge.

The Garden City complex’s main investor, Actis, selected the Solarcentury-SolarAfrica project confident that it will pay for itself through electricity costs saved, with the estimated 1,256MWh per year of electricity generated by the carport arrays expected to be consumed onsite. It will power lights and escalators and other infrastructure and fittings at the mall. Carports have been the favoured installation type at some commercial projects as they take advantage of otherwise unused real estate space above cars and provide shading for parked vehicles.

When the project was first announced by Solarcentury this time last year, the company said that it would use “dual mode technology”, meaning that solar can be used directly from the system during the day, but can also reduce consumption of diesel backup generators in times of grid outage. In other words it can use grid, solar or diesel power. According to Solarcentury, it has already installed another dual mode PV plant in Kenya, at a tea farm owned by Williamson Tea.

The project’s partners said the plant was constructed in a “couple of weeks”, realising cost savings from when system was grid-connected at the end of August.

NVI Energy’s SolarAfrica offered its 12-year financing solution to the project. The developer took on the upfront costs and will operate and maintain the system for that time.

“Garden City is a project with lots of firsts in this market, but we are particularly proud of the solar carport. We knew that we wanted a solar component to the project early on but the upfront costs were prohibitive. We’re very grateful to SolarAfrica for stepping in, working closely with partners Solarcentury, and for helping us to realise our vision,” Actis Kenya’s director Koome Gikunda said ahead of this morning’s launch.

Solarcentury Kenya’s director, Guy Lawrence said: “We are seeing more and more businesses in Kenya looking to invest in solar because of the multiple benefits it affords – notably, it enables organisations to take control of their long-term energy spend. A system will produce free solar electricity for at least 25 years, the average lifetime of a system.”

James Irons, executive director of NVI Energy and Solar Africa Platform, will be among the speakers at Solar Energy East Africa, hosted by PV Tech’s publisher Solar Media and taking place in Nairobi in March 2016.

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