Africa's first grid-connected biogas plant opens

Friday 21 August 2015

The Gorge Farm Energy Park, on the shores of Lake Naivasha, 80km north-west of the capital Nairobi, generates 2.8 MWe, supplying all but 400kW to the grid. A 10 MWe solar farm is planned to supplement it next year.

Nakuru County governor Kinuthia Mbugu described the solar farm as "a showcase project" for the continent. "Distributed power projects are vital to our energy security, reliability and efficiency. And the park will be using local crop waste and the sun to generate clean, renewable power close to the point of use," he continued.

The plant will handle about 55,000 tonnes of vegetable waste from the 800-hectare Gorge Farm, owned and operated by the VP Group, one of the largest fresh-produce exporters in East Africa. It took 12 months and cost €6.7m to build, with a projected six-year payback period.

German and Austrian firms were heavily involved in its construction. The plant itself is manufactured by Snow Leopard, with instrumentation and control systems from SAR, materials handling systems from BioG and agitators and stirrers from Paulmichl. The plant also includes a bank of GE Jenbacher gas engines, supplied by Clarke Energy, designed to operate at the farm's high altitude of 2km above sea level.

Although owned by independent power supplier Biojoule Kenya, the plant was developed by Tropical Power, which will be in charge of its operation. The firm is chaired by Mike Mason, the founder of carbon offsets firm Climate Care, which will sell the plant’s carbon credits, which have been accredited to the Gold Standard. It will reduce CO2 emissions by about 7,000 tonnes per year.

Mr Mason will also lead an Oxford University research programme to help advance AD technology in Africa. He said: "You cannot just plug and play a plant like this. The biology of the microbes that make the gas and the feedstocks that provide the source of energy are unique from site to site, and require time and expertise to understand."

"We expect interest from the supermarkets in the UK, as this project is in their supply chain and complements a number of other projects that we are managing in similar circumstances," said Tom Morton, director of ClimateCare’s Nairobi office.

This articel appeared on www.endswasteandbioenergy.com

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