Solarcentury and CrossBoundary to build East Africa’s first tracking hybrid solar plant

Changoi solar farm

Solarcentury to build East Africa’s first tracking hybrid solar plant as part of Unilever’s renewable energy initiative.

Solarcentury East Africa has been contracted by CrossBoundary Energy to build a 600kWp solar power plant on a Unilever tea farm in Kenya. The project is a first under the Solarcentury-CrossBoundary Energy partnership entered last year to boost solar uptake in African markets.

The ground mount PV tracking system will continuously orient the solar panels toward the sun, which will increase the amount of energy produced from the system. It is the first time this technology is being deployed in a commercial solar installation in East Africa.

Solarcentury will design the system and will be the EPC contractor (engineer, procure, construct). Energy provider SolarAfrica will manage project delivery and asset management while CrossBoundary Energy will finance the project.

‘Breaking new ground’

Director of Solarcentury East Africa, Guy Lawrence, said “we are delighted to be working with CrossBoundary Energy and Unilever to build this project”.

“The whole team is really excited to be breaking new ground on new technology. This is the sixth solar hybrid system that we have designed and installed in Kenya. We believe in making a meaningful difference in sustaining goal seven of the UN’s sustainable development goals by promoting widespread adoption of solar to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

The system will operate in parallel with the tea farm’s hydropower, reducing its reliance on the grid energy and cutting Unilever Tea Kenya’s energy spend. The solar power will be supplied to Unilever through a power purchase agreement with CrossBoundary Energy. And it will reduce Unilever’s carbon emissions by over 10,000 tonnes over the plant’s 30 plus-year lifetime.

The solar project brings Unilever Tea Kenya closer to meeting one of the aims of the organisation’s Sustainable Living Plan – sourcing 100 per cent of total energy across its global operations from renewables by 2030.

‘Impressive track record’

Managing Partner of CrossBoundary Energy, Matt Tilleard, said: “Commercial and industrial solar technology has changed a lot in the last five years. Our power purchase agreements enable clients to get the latest technology without the additional upfront costs. Our clients get a monthly bill, which includes all the building, maintenance and finance costs. We selected Solarcentury to build this plant due to their impressive track record in East Africa and consistent standards of technical excellence.”

The project is expected to be operational in mid-2018. This is the second commercial solar PV plant that Solarcentury East Africa will build for the tea industry in Kericho, Kenya. Solarcentury previously installed a 1MWp solar PV for Williamson Tea at its Changoi Tea Farm (pictured) in 2014.

Other successful projects undertaken by Solarcentury include Africa’s largest solar carport at Nairobi’s Garden City Mall, installation of three solar PV plants, with a total capacity of 1154kWp, at the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and the installation of almost 1MWp of roof solar system belonging to London Distillers in Athi River, Kenya.

Guy Lawrence concludes, “this build cements our position as the market leader in integrating and building solar PV with an operating business. It builds on the success of Solarcentury operations in the regional market and offers an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to bringing clean energy to all Africa.”