Solar powered greenhouse project at Olij farm, Naivasha.

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November 4, 2013. A solar-powered greenhouse has been opened in Kenya as a demonstration site for harnessing the sun to run the high energy consuming flower business. According to the Dutch Minister for for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen who commissioned the project at Olij farm in Naivasha last week, the development is expected to reduce reliance on the costly hydro power and drive the flower industry towards sustainability at a time when the world is increasingly leaning on green energy to mop up carbon emissions to reduce global warming.

The programme, an initiative of a consortium of Dutch agriculture technology companies under the umbrella of Green Farming initiative comes a month after the launch of the Carbon Reduction and Opportunities Tookit (CaRROT) , a mechanism that enables growers to capture data on how much energy and water is used in the production process to monitor emissions.

The  Kenya Flower Council CEO Jane Ngige said  using  solar to power greenhouses falls within the CaRROT programme and will enhance the saleability of the country’s flowers as the sector seeks markets sustainability through profiling its produce as grown in a low carbon emitting environment. “ This data proves that our flowers, despite being air freighted emit less carbon than those produced in Europe and this is useful for markets sustainability and better prices’’, she said.

Unlike the earlier greenhouse solar energy project at Bilashaka flower farm, the new one has been constructed with the latest technology that enables collection and storage of power in batteries for continued supply for heating and lighting according to Martin Helmich, export director of Hoogendoorn, the firm that has constructed the project.

The Kenya unit is a model to train and develop similar projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to put Eastern Africa under solar energy. He said unlike in the past when costly panels discouraged adoption of solar energy, the new technology is cheaper and pays back in about  than two years. In addition, since the power so generated is off the national grid, farms are spared the pain of frequent power outages while saving on utility bills, estimated at 40 per cent (savings).

Other green energy powered farms in the country include the geothermal greenhouse at Oserian and flower waste energy projects at Simbi Roses in Thika and PJ Dave in Isinya, Kajiado.  The latter have been developed with the Ministry of Energy on a pilot basis and results released  four  months ago indicated that flower waste can generate clean energy.

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