Solar energy lights up Nyamira's dark village

Engineer Evans Wambua, Consultant of the Last Mile water and sanitation project for the Kisii-Nyamira grid,inspecting solar panels used for powering the water grid in the Keroka lot-1 cluster. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Mr Philip Otwori changed his mind in having his property connected to the country’s main electricity power supplier when an attractive alternative came by six years ago.

This was after a long wait for Kenya Power to connect his Gianche village in Kemera Ward, Nyamira County. Despite intense lobbying for the extension of power lines to the village, it had remained without electricity for several years.

But since the introduction of solar energy systems in the village, Otwori and hundreds other residents of Gianche Village have never looked back.

A spot check in the village established that most homesteads are connected to solar power.

This is after a Powerhive East Africa, a non-state player that has been installing ground-mounted microgrids to supply clean energy to rural communities in Kisii and Nyamira, saved the entire village and their neighbours from the agony of waiting for so long to be served with electricity from the national grid.

“We had gotten tired of promises from politicians every electioneering season. They would always give us hope of accessing the power lines for decades. This the reason we have now resorted to solar power,” Otwori says.

Across the village and its neighbourhoods, one may overhead grid lines are the main source of power. However, it is a little known competitor that has connected 7,000 homesteads and established constant supply there.

Gladwell Momanyi, the Liaison and Agriculture Manager of Power-Hive East Africa, says the company has set up 23 power stations distributed across different villages in the two counties.

Varying numbers of solar panels are set in each of the stations to tap the green energy from the sun. The energy is stored in batteries from where it is converted before being relayed to the supply lines.

Ms Momanyi says, for example, at the Gianche solar energy harvesting station, the company produces about 60 kilowatts per hour.

This means that from all its 23 power generation centres, the firm can produce an average of around three megawatts of power.

Due to high demand, the company is planning to expand its services to 100 power generation sites, up from 23.

It is licensed by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, and its power rates are regulated by the agency.

Mr Otwori, the customer, unlike others served by the main national supplier, has never experienced power outages.

“For the last five years that I have been using this power line, I have never had anything like power outage,” he says.

“With Sh400 a month, I can comfortably do anything with the electricity, and it’s always well with me,” Otwori adds.

Ms Momanyi says they sell pre-paid recharge tokens to its customers as payment for the energy.

To avoid collision with the Kenya Power, there is rapport between them on coverage.

“We started with the remote areas that had not been reached. We have been moving into such areas, and we have an agreement with our competition over grid territories. And we are doing very well,” she says.