Tea firm commissions 2.4 megawatt solar plant

James Finlays' Chomogodany solar plant. [Courtesy]

Tea company James Finlay Kenya has commissioned a 2.4 megawatt (MW) solar project consisting of two solar plants as it aims to source power from renewable energy sources.

The company on Saturday announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2040 - sourcing 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The two solar plants are operated under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Berkeley Energy Corporate Solutions (BECS).

The plants have the potential to supply over five-gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, about 17 per cent of the company’s total power requirement.

The solar project will supplement the firm’s existing five micro-hydro plants with a combined rating of 2.2MW, able to supply over 10 GWh per year, a biogas plant rated at 160kW able to supply 700 MWh per year, and a steam turbine rated at 500kW able to supply up to two GWh at the firm’s extracts factory.

Finlays in a statement said the firm’s heating needs are supplied by solar thermal energy and burning renewable eucalyptus wood, which is all grown on its estates.

The company can now supply about 60 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, saving around 2,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The solar project is expected to yield considerable financial savings for the company, with an estimated range of $300,000-400,000 (Sh44.7 million to Sh59.7 million) in annual savings.

 Speaking to The Standard, James Finlay Kenya Managing Director Simeon Hutchinson said they are committed to promoting the adoption and overall development of the renewable energy sector in Kenya.

 The integration of solar energy into their operations, he said, not only accelerates their environmental initiatives but also enhances their ability to positively impact the communities they serve.

 “As a responsible company we are committed to promoting sustainable practices within the tea industry and contributing to the overall development of renewable energy in Kenya, and we have made considerable gains in implementing renewable energy solutions, as noted above,” he said.

“Our endeavours in this area align with Kenya’s commitment to clean energy and bolster its efforts to achieve the 100 per cent clean energy targets outlined in the global climate action agenda.”

 He urged other firms to invest in renewable energy sources, adding that investors are willing to assist companies in going green. He stated that they are exploring ways to use solar and other types of green energy in tea harvesting machines.

 Berkeley Energy Managing Director Luka Buljan said they would support Finlays and are exploring other potential areas of collaboration with Finlays to assist them in achieving carbon neutrality.

“We are excited to be supporting Finlays in increasing renewable generation for their production process. Berkeley Energy established BECS to provide energy and decarbonisation solutions to commercial and industrial customers in Africa,” said Buljan. 

According to the Green Africa Foundation, 68 per cent of the Kenyan population relies on wood fuel and other biomasses as the primary source of energy.

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