A commercial biogas farm in Kenya has become Africa’s pioneering electricity producer powered by biogas to sell additional electricity to the national grid, cutting the carbon emissions associated with oil-powered generation.
The Gorge Farm Energy Park in Naivasha generates 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity – more than enough to cultivate its 706 hectares (1,740 acres) of vegetables and flowers, and with adequate surplus to meet the power needs of 5,000-6,000 rural households.
The new plant generates not only electricity, but also heat for the farm’s greenhouses, with fertilizer as a by-product.
Gorge Farm, roughly 76km (50 miles) northwest of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is owned by the Vegpro Group, a top East African exporter of fresh vegetables and it’s the second largest exporter of roses.
Biojoule Kenya, the independent power producer that runs the Gorge Farm plant, signed an accord to sell electricity to Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) – the nation’s only power distributor – in 2016.
Biojoule Kenya sells the power to Gorge Farm and to KPLC for $0.10 per kilowatt hour (kWh). Diesel-generated power, by distinction, costs $0.38 per kWh to generate.
“The Gorge Farm plant is substantial proof that locally produced feedstock can be used to produce clean and less expensive power for Kenyans,” said Mike Nolan, chief operating officer at Tropical Power, a developer of biogas and solar plants in Africa.
It supplied engines for the plant together with Clarke Energy, a UK-based engine service provider.
“The prospective for biogas generated electricity in Kenya is important,” said Helen Osiolo, a policy analyst at the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis. She believes biogas could produce around 29 and 131 MW of power, but said the biggest challenge is that the government will not pay adequately for it.
Even though anaerobic digestion of waste to produce biogas is a recognized technology in Europe and Asia, the concept is still new in Africa at large scale. The technology had been set up in 45 sites internationally before debuting at the Gorge Farm plant.