Geothermal power producer Kengen to manufacture solar panels

KENYA – Kenya’s geothermal power producer KenGen is gearing up to start manufacture of solar panels as it looks to tap the growing local market for solar products.

The company has in the recent past been diversifying its revenue streams and reducing dependence on the sale of electricity and among the areas that it has set sights on is the manufacture of solar panels.

“The Company is targeting the growing demand for solar-related products within the country. To actualise this, KenGen has commissioned a team of seven engineers to commence solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing,” said the power producer in its annual report for the year to June 2019.

“A sample solar panel was assembled, and the manufacturing concept approved. Research is ongoing on various options for the manufacture of the solar photovoltaic cells”

The company has in the past indicated it plans to produce solar panels at its Tana Power station in Murang’a County.

The plant is expected to produce panels with a power production capacity of up to 10 megawatts every year.

There has been an increase in demand for solar products in the country, seen in among others, the number of companies which have built solar power plants as they try to bring down their cost of power while occasionally feeding the excess power they produce to the national grid.

There are also some planned commercial-scale solar power plants which will be feeding the Kenya electricity grid.

KenGen is among those looking to build large scale solar plants, with a planned Seven Forks 42.5MW Solar PV project.

The country’s Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (Rerec) built the first such plants with a capacity to generate 50MW in Northern Kenya.

Other than the commercial power plant builders, there is also a growing retail market for solar power products with numerous Kenyans using solar products both as a primary source of lighting or as a secondary source and back up.

“KenGen intends to create more value by sweating its assets to grow non-electricity revenue through diversification, by spinning off a subsidiary to professionally manage all non-electricity business,” said the company.

“These include consultancy services, geothermal well drilling services, infrastructure business, manufacturing, and hospitality business streams. These streams shall support in the provision of long-term financing of our electricity business.” the company said.

The company currently manufactures drilling detergent used when sinking geothermal and other wells.

Other than manufacturing, the firm has recently bagged contracts to drill geothermal wells in other countries.

The firm recently competitively bid and won two geothermal drilling contracts in the Aluto and Tulu Moye geothermal fields in Ethiopia.

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