By BOB KOIGI
August 15,2017, Nairobi. In just five months since installation of a solar plant, Redlands Roses has reaped huge benefits, having saved an approximated Sh 2.2 million in power bills while reducing its carbon footprint, in a classic example of how renewable energy is becoming growers’ saving grace at a time when electricity costs are said to contribute 40 per cent of flower companies’ expenses in Kenya. This, even as this energy remains unreliable. The solar panels are said to have a yearly production of 369.7 megawatts.
The project which costs Sh 33 million was designed using a hybrid process that interfaces the Kenya Power grid and diesel generators, the plant supplies a portion of the electricity necessary for the pumps used to irrigate the plantings, as well as the refrigeration systems. French solar company Urba Solar carried out the engineering, development, and construction of this ground-mounted power plant which covers the farm with parking canopies.
Panels at the farm are placed in between the greenhouses with half of them being placed on parking spots facing east while the other half are set on the ground facing west. The design is to allow for maximum tapping of the sun according to Urba Solar.
These panels are connected to a power system with an automated device which has three inputs including energy from the solar panels, Kenya Power and Genset. The outputs which represent the consumption of energy are managed and regulated by the automated device ensuring uninterrupted and cheap power access by the farm.
According to Aldic Spindler, Executive Director at Red Lands Roses, the farm’s monthly bill has dropped from Sh 1.7 million to around Sh1.2 million per month “This type of project makes a lot of sense for us as we are in hydroponiccultivation with full recycling of irrigation water, hence the use of many pumps. We also recycle the harvesting water solution. With this photovoltaic project coupled with our soilless growing system and other water recycling systems, our carbon footprint has reduced tremendously,” said Mr. Spindler. The farm hopes to get payback in about six years.
He further says that while the development resonates with the farm’s environmental innovations it has been founded on from the beginning, it is a response to the new energy approach that is encouraging efficiency in power usage to reduce carbon emissions to tame global warming, not to mention the frequent interruption of electricity provided by Kenya Power, posing a threat to smooth operation and integrity of electrical systems and apparatus.
The project resonates with an initiative started by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy under the Centre for Energy Efficiency and Conservation (CEEC).
The centre runs various energy efficiency and conservation programs designed to help companies identify energy wastage, determine saving potential and give recommendation on measures to be implemented. These programs include energy audits, specialized trainings, Energy Management Award (EMA and energy accord.
According to Mr Spindler, the farm is putting in place all the recommendations by CEEC, among them developing solar energy.
The Red Lands Roses solar power comes in the wake of the farm’s pioneering the postharvest water ultra-purification system developed by Pure Water Solutions a technology that promises massive savings on energy, post-harvest chemicals, time, water and money.
The post-harvest treatment saves cold energy instead of its being thrown away together with chemicals, and water by recycling it within a short time and returning it to the post-harvest system when it is still cold reducing the overall cost of production, according to Brandon Barbour, the Marketing Director of the water technology firm.
“The positive impact on the environment, cannot be quantified, it is worth the initial capital injection”, said Mr Spindler. He is happy that Red Lands Roses is yet again at the forefront of technology, having been the first to grow flowers on hydroponics from the start in 1996 making it possible to put murram land into productivity.