CWEEL visit to Penta Flowers
The Council of Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) International is a division of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) of the United States. It supports the role of women in the energy and environmental industries by; assisting in the career development activities for existing professionals, enabling young women aspiring to leadership roles to find mentors that will support their own development and enabling networking among professionals in the energy and environmental industries.
The CWEEL-Eastern Africa falls under the Association of Energy Professional in Eastern Africa (AEPEA) which is a professional body for all professionals working in the energy sector. It is registered in Kenya and accredited as chapter of the AEE since 2014. It is the second local chapter of the AEE in Africa after the South African chapter. One of AEPEA’s objectives in Kenya is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation and management in accordance to the existing standards, policy, legal and regulatory framework and uphold the highest standards of professionalism in the Energy sector.
For one to be a part of the CWEEL-EA network, one has to join the AEPEA membership as all AEPEA Members are automatically CWEEL-EA Members.
Grid tie systems are becoming increasingly popular among businesses in Kenya. As electricity tariffs continue to increase, many public and private facilities are turning to Solar PV Systems to reduce their operational costs and realize some savings. Kenya sits on the equator and is fortunate to receive an insolation of 4-6 kWh/ m2, with an average of 5-7 peak sunshine hours in most areas.
CWEEL-EA organized a site training on grid tie solar PV installation basics at Penta Flowers located in Thika off Gatanga road on 20th January 2018. The farm has been in operation for the last 25 years and has 40 hectares under flowers. From a past energy audit, 80% of their power requirements come from cold storage and water pumping. A captive power solar PV system without storage was installed at the site in mid 2017, consisting of 134kWp roof mount and 66kWp ground mount installations (total of 200kWp), to offset approximately 40% of their energy consumption from the Kenya grid.
The trip attracted 41 participants, both women engineers, engineers, renewable energy and environment. The operations manager at the farm was at hand to take the participants through the history of the farm, their power requirements, why they chose solar power and how they financed their system. The project engineer explained how they collected data for the system sizing, factors to consider when designing a grid tie system, operations, and maintenance. Participants were also advised on challenges faced when designing and maintaining such systems, environmental and safety regulations. The visit was quite informative and well received, it generated a lot of conversation on the opportunity for energy efficiency and installation of captive power systems for the agricultural sector in Kenya. This is because almost all agricultural facilities prefer to use their land for food, vegetable or flower production but have adequate rooftops for similar installations.