Kenya: Transmara Solar
Demonstrating the value of small-scale solar
In 2016, Power Africa described Kenya’s power sector as having a story of “solid performance:” the country had successfully doubled energy access from 25% to 46% of households over the previous four years and 30% of its energy was being generated by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Since then, initiatives such as Kenya Power’s Last Mile project have continued to steadily increase the number of people being connected, with just over 0.5 million new connections reported for the last financial year. However, demand for power is also growing (by 9% last year) and whilst there is discernible interest from the private sector in developing IPPs, just 12.5MW of new generation capacity (0.5% of total installed capacity) became operational last year.
In 2018, the Government of Kenya reaffirmed its intention to achieve Universal Electricity Access by 2022 and to continue developing the power sector: including a strategic use of on-grid, off-grid and small-scale solutions to bring power to remote rural and/or underserved peri-urban locations. Leveraging Kenya’s significant solar potential and its long tradition of private-sector participation in power to mobilise small scale solar IPPs could be one way to achieve this ambition.
InfraCo Africa is working with an established solar power developer, Gigawatt Global Ltd, to develop the 10MWAC Transmara Solar photovoltaic project in Narok, north of the Maasai Mara Nature Reserve and approximately 250km west of the country’s capital, Nairobi. Being developed in a single phase, Transmara Solar will deliver clean power to Kenya’s national grid by 2024.
The population of Narok County is growing at 5% per annum; 2% higher than the national average. Despite electricity connectivity having increased from 6% in 2009 to 20% of households in 2018, firewood and charcoal still account for 80% of total energy used in the county. Youth unemployment is high and Narok county is identified as having underdeveloped economic infrastructure whilst also being vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Expanding renewable energy generation in Narok county will bring much-needed clean power to this part of Kenya. Working with local communities, the project will also implement tailored initiatives, to provide new economic opportunities and promote development in the local area.
In parallel to developing the Transmara Solar project, InfraCo Africa and Gigawatt Global are co-developing Samburu Solar, a second 10MWAC solar PV project in the south-east of the country. Adding solar generation to Kenya’s energy mix in small increments across the country will balance the desire to increase renewable energy capacity swiftly, with the need to maintain grid stability. The two projects are expected to demonstrate the commercial viability of strategically sited, small-scale plants; mobilising private sector investment into Kenya’s solar sector.
By delivering Samburu Solar and Transmara Solar in parallel, it is hoped that InfraCo Africa, together with Gigawatt Global, can prove that small can indeed be beautiful.
Development is being led by Gigawatt Global Ltd