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Light up Kenyan Rural Homes
Date:3/28/2013 6:15:22 AM

Many Kenyans dream of getting their homes connected to the electric power grid. For many, this remains just that; a dream. But things may soon change if a team of engineers from Harvard University has its way.

These engineers are determined to see rural homes across Kenya gain access to affordable power and clean water from wells and boreholes.

One of the team experts, 26-year-old Sam Slaughter, the brains behind WPG E-Power Ltd., says the team aims to enable Kenyans to put the provision of energy in their own hands since access to electricity can transform the country.

“Renewable energy can be used for pumping water, powering completely off-grid homes, providing power backup from on-grids, and offering low-cost lighting solutions,” said Mr Slaughter.

WindGen Power, a project initiated two years ago, provides access to reliable and affordable renewable energy using the limitless power of the wind and the sun.

“We enable those living, working, and learning off-grid to enjoy the benefits of power,” he notes.

He says that the main power grid serves just 18 per cent of Kenya’s population, which means that an estimated 30 million people have to contend with environmental-damaging fuels like kerosene, firewood, charcoal, diesel, and dry cell batteries.

Mr Slaughter says renewable energy is an excellent option for people living off-grid since it is a comprehensive power solution that does not require an expensive, noisy, and polluting generator.

With a turnover of Sh15 million from Sh1 million seed capital, the company has made great strides in commercialising small Kenyan-made wind turbines. The station has 15 employees.

Mr Slaughter says the company has made 35 installations of renewable power stations in rural Kenya. Conversely, the wind turbines are designed based on the specific needs, budget, and site characteristics of the customer.

Robust and affordable

He says the company’s mission is to harness East Africa’s renewable energy using robust and affordable products to bring clean energy to homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses.

According to engineer Alastair Smith, an expert working for the energy firm, water pumping in particular is of crucial importance for the Kenyan economy, especially in agriculture.

“Water pumping with solar and in some cases wind, can be extremely efficient and cost-effective. Once installed, the system requires no refuelling, which saves immensely on operating costs and logistical challenges related to fuel transportation,” he said.

He says the systems are most useful in rural areas, where water is needed for domestic use and farming, but are not connected to the national grid.

Increased deployment of such systems, he adds, would go a long way in achieving Kenya’s development goals by increasing agricultural output, decreasing carbon emissions, and increasing renewable energy penetration.

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