USTDA backs one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s first utility solar-plus-storage projects

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US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, signs the grants on behalf of USTDA, along with Xago managing director, Paul W. Webb. Source: US Trade and Development Agency

The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is continuing its mission of funding priority development projects in emerging economies, this time by signing two grants that leverage US technology and investment to increase access to affordable, reliable electricity in Kenya.

Via Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the USTDA awarded US$1.1 million (Sh113 million) to Nairobi-based Xago Africa for the development of a utility-scale solar-storage farm in Siaya County. North Carolina-based Alevo, a battery storage technology manufacturer, will provide technology and analytics services for the project. The plant will be among the first utility-scale battery storage installations in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Energy storage will transform transmission networks,” said Paul W. Webb, Xago managing director. “It will rapidly accelerate the take-up of renewables, and we are proud to be partnering Alevo, which leads the field in battery technology and network analytics.”

A battery storage facility will be installed to regulate the energy generation from the 40MW solar farm, which is expected to take around six months to complete.

“Energy storage will boost take-up of solar power on a mass scale due to the elements of reliability and efficiency,” Power Africa country manager Joanna Hecht said during the signing ceremony in Nairobi.

The project is significant as it now ensures that Kenya is stepping up to explore energy storage technology on a larger-scale beyond solar-powered batteries for households. 

Microgrids in Nigeria

Separately, the USTDA has also awarded a Power Africa grant for the development of 25 solar microgrids across Nigeria that will produce more than 5MW combined.

The funding, going to local firm Community Social Enterprises Limited (CESEL), will be filtered into a feasibility study for the microgrids. The study will focus on providing solar to rural and peri-urban communities that lack access to the national grid.

The microgrids will operate on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis using mobile payments – a business model that has proven to accelerate Sub Saharan Africa’s rural electrification process. Production and consumption of the electricity from the microgrids will be monitored on a real-time basis.

The USTDA asserts that the project will help Nigeria to capitalise on its tremendous solar energy potential by scaling up the deployment of off-grid generation and minigrids.

CESEL selected the US firm Renewvia Energy to conduct the feasibility study. The project presents opportunities for US businesses to make sales in solar PV modules, batteries, electrical equipment, control systems and meters across Nigeria.

“We are proud to connect CESEL with a leading US company on this important project to expand energy access in Nigeria,” said Fitts.

“We’re delighted to be selected as technical services partner for this project with CESEL,” added Trey Jarrard, CEO of Renewvia. “We look forward to continuing development of solar microgrids in Sub Saharan Africa, and we’re excited to play such an important role in helping to advance Nigeria’s support for off-grid power.”

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