Beneficiaries of the project
This project began three years ago and targets rural communities and Makueni was identified as a viable centre.
Over 3,000 residents are set to have direct electricity connections, with 40 direct connections to churches, hospitals and schools.
By Onesmus Nzioka
More than 3,000 residents of Kitonyoni sub-location, Makueni County, are set to benefit from a multi-million-shilling solar energy research project undertaken by the University of Southampton, United Kingdom.
The project is a pilot study in Kenya undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG) from Southampton University in collaboration with the Imperial College Business School.
It involves installation of gigantic solar panels to harness renewable solar energy as a way of implementing easy-to-replicate, sustainable decentralised off-grid electricity generation to promote development and improve lives in rural communities in Africa.
When completed, it will see 3,000 inhabitants connected to electricity supply, with 40 direct connections to churches, hospitals and schools within the area.
The project is funded by the research councils and Department of International Development UK, under the Makueni County Solar Energy Supply Cooperative society, through the ministries of Energy and Cooperative Development.
Research on renewable solar energy to light up rural Kenya began three years ago and Makueni was identified as a viable centre.
Two sub-locations in Makueni, Kitonyoni and Mwania were identified as viable centres for the pilot study due to their remoteness and distance from the national grid as well as availability of so many facilities in dire need of electrification.
The two were identified by mapping data from Kenya that defines poverty levels and identifies areas where there is no electricity and no immediate plans to connect the existing grid often because of large distances and poor terrain that makes the process costly.
Implementation of the project will take place at Kitonyoni sub location while Mwania sub-location will act as a control site and will be electrified later. This will connect more households to electricity, which would otherwise have waited for decades to be connected to the national grid.
SERG technicians led by the Head of Faculty of Civil Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton Prof AbuBakr S Bahaj, were last week at the site of the project to lay the foundation before the installation of solar panels, which scheduled to take place within the month.