The German solar industry is elbowing into Kenya. Angela Merkel’s splash visit with several German industrial heads in July has certainly helped to open the way for German solar companies (and other German industries) to become more involved in developing solar in Kenya. Located on the Equator, Kenya has one of the best locations on the planet for solar energy. Merkel is determined to help one of the best and most experienced solar industries in the world gain traction in Africa, regardless of the ailing economies of the EU and the US.
Given the difficulties for the PV industry at home and the huge potential for solar and other renewables in Africa, we would not be surprised to see the German and Chinese equipment companies race to establish their own technical and quality standards. This can only be good for Africa.
A press release also highlighted the opening of the German Solar Academy in Nairobi in July of this year. Three German companies, Energiebau Solarstromsysteme GmbH, SCHOTT Solar AG and SMA Solar Technology AG launched the German Solar Academy with a one week training activity during the month of June. About 40 participants from Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda increased their knowledge on photovoltaic systems. They also had the opportunity to visit the 515 kW solar-power system at the new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters completed by Energiebausolarsysteme GmbH in February 2011. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel visited the site while on a state visit to Kenya.
From the press release:
“Part of the curriculum offered at the fully booked pilot training at the German Solar Academy included technical background information on planning, installation, operation and maintenance of off-grid and grid-connected photovoltaic systems (PV). Further trainings will be offered biannually until 2012, the next is scheduled for October 2011.
Bernd Wolff, Energiebau Solarstromsysteme GmbH, said: “Through the training of local experts and artisans on high quality products and procedures we are aiming to establish solar systems as a competitive source of energy in East Africa. With this first training, we have had more applicants than capacity. This clearly shows us the high demand for trainings like this.”
The German Solar Academy in Nairobi is part of a three year partnership among Energiebau Solarstromsysteme GmbH, SCHOTT Solar AG and SMA Solar Technology AG with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ; formerly GTZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The project goal is to establish photovoltaic systems as a sustainable source of energy. This will include the training of local experts and artisans as well as the installation of pilot systems in Kenya and Tanzania. Participants at the training were members of staff of power companies, research institutions and privately owned businesses.
The training was well received by those who took part. Henry Gichungi, Deputy Manager for Off-Grid Power Stations at Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) stated: “Engineers as well as customers naturally prefer high quality products. Due to a lack of processes we had difficulties to distinguish products of inferior quality from those with superior quality. During the training at the German Solar Academy Nairobi I have learned about testing procedures which I now plan to introduce to my department.”
Jean-Pierre Muhire, owner of a small installation firm in Rwanda, said. “I have worked all over East Africa, in Burundi, Kenya, South-Sudan and Rwanda. No one there, me included, knew of the superior quality which is available on the market. The training really opened my eyes and I wished, more people would learn about the possibilities one has with the right products and partners. This would definitely boost the application of solar systems in the region.”
Francis Maina, a mechanic in Kenya, pointed out: “Until now we knew about grid-connected solar systems only from books. During the training at the German Solar Academy Nairobi I could observe for the first time how such a system works. Best of all, we met the companies who do planning, produce the components and do the installation in one place. The direct contact to them was really helpful to have our questions answered quickly and comprehensive. Books could have never done this job.”
Energiebau Solarstromsysteme GmbH completed the largest solar PV system in Africa on top of the roof of the new headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Nairobi, with solar modules from SCHOTT Solar AG and inverters from SMA Solar Technology AG. The system, which was completed in February 2011, has a capacity of 515 Kilowatt and produces more energy than is needed by the 1200 staff in the four UNEP buildings. “