Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kenya: Solar Project to Light Up Makueni Village

A village in Makueni is set to benefit from a multimillion shilling solar energy research project by the University of Southampton and Imperial Colleg, London . The project is sponsored by the Research Councils UK and Department of International Development, United Kingdom.

The solar energy research project started three years ago, looking for options for electrification and its social implications in rural Kenya.

The project will be carried out in parts of in Makueni with Kitonyoni market selected as the ideal site by the researchers. Speaking yesterday when he arrived at the village to install the solar panels, "The project, is set to benefit 3,000 inhabitants and 40 direct connections to shops, school, churches and hospitals once completed," said the group's leader Prof AbuBakr S. Bahaj, who is the head of the Sustainable Energy Research Group at the University of Southampton said:

"The main aim of the project is to help the community through sustainable energy and this is exactly what we are giving this village today," he said. "Once the project is complete, the community can harness the solar energy to light their homes and also initiate viable enterprises to help alleviate poverty in the area."

He said the project will change the lives of the local community if used wisely. He however challenged the community to initiate viable income generating activities that could take advantage of the venture to change their lives saying that they identified Kitonyoni as the suitable site for the project over the other sites due to its grave needs and the remote locality and the enthusiasm of its community to support this activity.

"When we came to Kenya three year ago, we surveyed 1, 200 households in various locations to ascertain the suitability of the project. We eventually settled for Kitonyoni owing to its distance from the grid and facilities and businesses in need of electrification," he added. SERG is part of the Engineering and Environment Faculty working with Social Sciences at the University of Southampton and IC constituted an interdisciplinary team of researchers bringing the different fields involved in renewables, energy efficiency, social and economic aspects of these fields to rural community electrification.

SERG was established in 1993 and it concentrates on six major fields of research which span renewable energy generations, resource assessment, energy efficiency in Britain and other countries. Speaking while accompanying the team, the Makueni County Co-operatives Officer Mrs. Rhoda Mulili said the team arrived in the country last Sunday and was scheduled to wind-up the installation phase of the project before the end of this month.

She said the project was funded under the Makueni county solar energy supply co-operative society limited through the Ministries of Energy and Co-operative development. She asked the locals to own the project saying once it is completed it will be handed over to the community. "The co-operative leaders and the locals must strive to sustain this 13.5 kilowatts solar plant at Kitonyoni because it belongs to the community and the generations to come," she said.


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