United Selections welcomes sustainability decade with solar energy

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Rasmus Hansen,Ecoligo Managing Director Kenya, when United Selections unveiled its solar panels at the Nakuru farm
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 The breeder went live on January 17, 2020 with the plant developed by German firm, Ecoligo, that has introduced an easy plan for flower farms to set up solar energy generation plants

 By ANTHONY MUTAI

Kenyan Flower breeder United Selections becomes the first floriculture outfit to usher in the “Sustainability Decade” with intent after unveiling its solar power generation plant in Nakuru.
This puts the farm on the list of at least of flower outfits that have embraced renewable energy over the past year, a clear indication that the industry is determined to invest in carbon footprints reduction for
sustainable operations.
The breeder went live on January 17, 2020 with the plant developed by German firm, Ecoligo, which has introduced an easy plan by for flower farms to set up solar plants.
HortiNews caught up with Rasmus Hansen, Ecoligo Managing Director, Kenya, when United Selections unveiled its solar panels at the Nakuru farm, timed to coincide with a spectacular show of its newest range of spray roses.
A visibly elated Hansen, who spent two days walking under the sun showing visitors the magic of the sun system at United Selections in Nakuru, couldn’t contain the joy of seeing Ecoligo’s latest project up
and running. Latest, because a month earlier, Thika-based Simbi Roses unveiled its own solar plant, also set up by the German company, which has a branch in Nairobi.

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Other Ecoligo solar plants are at Rift Valley Flowers ( Operational) and Zena Roses (under construction). The project at United Selections was implemented in collaboration with engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company Yingli Namene Solar, who are responsible for the technical implementation as well as ongoing maintenance.


Hansen’s excitement has another link, a story he loves telling to everyone who cares to listen: his love for flowers. “ I was 14 when I landed my first job in a greenhouse, sorting roses in Denmark. It was then that I developed a special connection with flowers. Almost twenty years later, I am back to with the same industry, on the opposite part of the world, in another capacity offering a service to improve business for flower growers. It is a full cycle that gives me immeasurable joy’, he said, with a tinge of satisfaction.
At the United Selections solar plant, Hansen touches the panels and describes the technology to the in detail. But first things first. Why the flower industry? “ The sector runs on power round the clock.Pumping irrigation water, maintaining the cool chain among other uses.”, he says. “ We did a sector by sector power requirement analysis and established that flower farms are among the highest consumers. Hydro power is expensive and when there is an outage, the farms switch to generators,which increases production costs. The farms can improve their electricity supply with solar energy, but don’t want to invest outside of their core business.We therefore sold created a solution that wouldn’t touch their funds.


A solution that wouldn’t touch their funds? How? This is the best part, Hansen explained. We come to your farm, look at your power bills and check for availability of space. If the bills are high and you have space for a solar plant that can generate energy commensurate with your consumption, we discuss a plan.The plan entails our coming in at no cost to you, putting up a solar plant and managing it at a monthly fee for an agreed period, after which you take over the unit. The process projects are financed through crowd financing in Germany, meaning that our customers can get solar without the high upfront cost.


Now the technical aspects. At United Selections, the ground -mounted solar photovoltaic system with a capacity of 110 kilowatts will help the company save on the cost of electricity and reduce carbon emissions by 113 tonnes yearly.As the world grapples with global warming, it is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses to embrace technologies that enhance sustainability. This was the pursuit that brought United Selections and Ecoligo together – to operate in a cleaner, greener world.
Despite Kenya’s geographical location that endows the country with plenty of sunlight, installation of solar plants is costly. Aware of this hurdle, Ecoligo designed a solution to make it affordable, which explains the rise in the number of farms uptaking the technology. Mr Hansen says Ecoligo takes all the risks and guarantees of ensuring power is generated as promised and compensates the farm if this is not met.
The company will run 100 % on solar during sunny days and automatically switch to the national grid when the sun is low and at night. Ecoligo builds a system according to a specific client needs without oversizing to avoid producing power that will not be used.
Ecoligo guarantees a lifetime of 25 years of the solar panels. The project has to perform every day. The Project is monitored from the company’s headquarters Berlin, and in the event of any malfunction information is quickly relayed to their technicians. Ecoligo is looking into engaging more flower farms to embrace solar energy for sustainability.

Ecoligo ‘s connection to the horticulture industry stretches back to before the company was started. Founders Martin Baart and Markus Schwaninger were working in the field of solar development and financing and had both worked on projects for flower farms. This included Simbi Roses in Thika, which they had tried to supply with solar through each of their respective organizations at the time and is now powered by Ecoligo’s solar-as-a-service solution.

In October 2013, Martin and Markus met at a solar conference in Nairobi, where the idea for Ecoligo was born. The entrepreneurs decided a solution was needed after seeing many viable solar projects were unrealised, due to a lack of financed and customer-friendly options for businesses to go solar. The pair founded Ecoligo and are now enabling businesses across Kenya to go solar.

Ecoligo ‘s connection to the horticulture industry stretches back to before the company was started. Founders Martin Baart and Markus Schwaninger were working in the field of solar development and financing and had both worked on projects for flower farms. This included Simbi Roses in Thika, which they had tried to supply with solar through each of their respective organizations at the time and is now powered by Ecoligo’s solar-as-a-service solution.

Directly, we have 5 potential projects. These are really high quality leads, as they were referred so are much more likely to materialise and they have also seen a working system. The total volume is 1 MW. There will be many more indirect leads coming as well.

What the attendees saw as unique was that we finance the systems through crowdinvesting. They see this as really valuable, that they don’t have to invest themselves and save money from day one. You can compare the model to a house: why would you pay more to rent a house, when you could pay less for a mortgage and own the house at the end? It’s the same as the solar project – instead of paying money to the national energy company, where you get to use the energy but get nothing at the end, when you can pay less and own an energy-generating asset at the end of it.

All of the clients were also very concerned about the environment and want to be as sustainable as possible.Something that stood out to them was the engineering – it was clearly very well done, with much attention to detail. The level of engineering matches utility scale projects.

This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag

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