Another first for East Africa as round-the-clock hybrid power grids start operations

Tuesday December 25 2018

A solar power plant in Soroti District in Uganda.

A solar power plant in Soroti District in Uganda. Ninety per cent of Uganda’s rural areas still lack access to electricity. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP 

By KENNEDY SENELWA
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Uganda is set to be East Africa’s first country to use hybrid of solar and hydrogen technology to power areas not linked to national electricity grid.

Tiger Power has signed an agreement with Uganda’s Rural Electrification Agency for a hybrid plant to power 3,000 households and businesses in three villages that currently lack electricity in Kyenjojo District.

Tiger Power, a Belgian firm, said it is constructing a solar plant in each village backed by on-site hydrogen production and storage to utilise hybrid technology to supply power that is free of fossil fuel pollution to ensure outages do not occur.

Kyaburyezibwa, Mukiti and Nyamicu villages in Kyenjojo District in western Uganda about 275km west of Kampala city will from mid 2019 get power from the hybrid plant.

Villages will get electricity from a Sunfold” system made up of a containerised generator that has solar panels atop a lead-crystal battery bank. The hydrogen solution is called “Storager” and is contained in a 20ft container.

Solar energy

Tiger’s chief executive Chris Prengels said the firm uses solar power during the day to produce hydrogen with electricity causing an electro-chemical reaction to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

“The hydrogen is stored and turned into electricity when needed. In this way we can provide power to community without need for a diesel generator. This means completely pollution free electricity is available,” he said.

Belgium’s government agency Export Financing (Finexpo) which is supporting the project has given Tiger $ 681,779.59 grant.

Finexpo promotes Belgian companies abroad to facilitate trade among other tasks.

“We are supporting Tiger to export the solar and hydrogen solution. This will help them to extent their business, provide needed jobs and development in Uganda,” said Finexpo’s commercial attache Joeri Colson.

Kyenjojo’s mini-grids will have capacity of 50 and 100 kilowatts depending on the needs of each village.

Tiger will assist REA in training technicians and maintaining the power plant for one year. REA will later be responsible for operations.

“Construction of the project is starting immediately so that by 2019 the three villages will be lit and we will continue working in other regions,” said REA chief executive officer Godfrey Turyahikayo.

Reliable power

Schools, health centres, mining companies and welding workshops are among those expected to benefit from the project in Kyenjojo.

Ninety per cent of Uganda’s rural areas still lack access to electricity. This hinders economic development and alleviating of poverty.

The mini-grids in Kyenjojo will provide reliable power for all aspects of the communities’ needs such as health, education and light works such as welding and flour milling.

The University of Southampton has a team embedded in the Kyenjojo project.

The experts will carry out an energy needs assessment and research on the socio-economic impacts of the Tiger’s mini-grid project.

“Our experience in Uganda and Kenya is that these mini grids invigorate communities in positive ways,” said Prof AbuBakr Bahaj, the head of energy and climate change division at the University of Southampton.

Development of Kyenjojo project accelerates Tiger’s mission to construct 200 mini-grids in East Africa. The renewable energy firm which started in 2015 has offices in India, South-Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Belgium.

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