By Gitahi Kunyuga.
BRIGHT Project has started a research project to develop a cheap, locally made Wind-Solar hybrid system customized to the demands of Kenyan rural households. According to a study commissioned by BRIGHT Project on training needs assessment on small wind systems (Please see and download full report elsewhere on our website), it was found that there are only a few local manufacturers undertaking development of wind systems, and most systems are imported and thus expensive.
The JICA/JKUAT small wind system will be fully fabricated in Kenya using locally available materials and optimized for operation in the rural Kenyan setting. The system is expected to add value by improving on the design and sizing, advanced control, electricity storage and affordability. This system would be useful for remote and inhospitable areas where reliable electricity supply is not available. It will act as a stand-alone system to provide a stable power source either as a back-up or as a fully operational power source. Moreover, it will contribute towards a cleaner environment as the use of conventional forms of energy would be reduced.
In order to develop an efficient wind-solar hybrid system, it is important to evaluate the technical and economic performance of an existing hybrid system. This will be done by installing measuring devices on an existing system and collect data on a 24-hour basis for a whole year in order to measure such components as wind speeds, wind direction, air density, solar radiation, power consumption trends, among others. The data will enable the research team to identify challenges, weaknesses and strengths of existing systems, thus assisting to perform sizing and optimization of the wind-solar hybrid system under development.
During the training needs assessment survey, several hybrid systems in the country were identified. After several site visits, St. Francis Xavier Girls’ Secondary School was chosen as a good candidate to install the monitoring devices. Located about 2 kilometres from Naivasha town, it has good solar and wind resources which are utilized for most of the school’s power needs. The school has a wind-solar hybrid system comprising of 30 solar panels each 160W and two wind turbines each producing 900W. In total the school generates 6.6kW from the system which has been in operation for the last 6 years. A separate solar panel system consisting of 16 solar panels is connected to a pump directly to pump water from a borehole that is 233m deep.
On 1st July, 2014, the BRIGHT Project Chief Advisor and the Project manager led a team of researchers for a preliminary visit of the school and to discuss with the Principal, Mrs. Ruth Kahiga, about the possibility of collaboration in research work. The Project Chief Advisor, Mr. Yuji Otake, explained the purpose of the visit and then elaborated on the background of the hybrid system research and the importance of having reliable data from a running hybrid system for use in design and development of a low cost system for rural households in Kenya. Prof. Robert Kinyua, the BRIGHT Project manager, then explained that the hybrid system at the school is especially very relevant since it has been running for six years, and emphasised that such kind of system would be a very good model to monitor in order to understand power production versus consumption patterns in order to better optimize it.
Mrs. Kahiga expressed her gratitude for having her school chosen for collaboration in this research. She gave a brief overview of the school and the background of the hybrid system. She explained that the system had greatly improved the students’ lives since it was able to serve 8 classrooms for night studies, 2 laboratories, 4 dormitories, 1 computer lab with 22 computers and a library. She expressed her hope that through the research, the school’s system could be better optimized to improve efficiency. Both sides agreed to collaborate in a way that they would mutually benefit. Afterwards, Mrs. Kahiga kindly took the team for a visit around the school grounds to observe the hybrid system.
To commemorate the beginning of the collaboration between JKUAT and St. Francis Xavier Girls’ Secondary School, BRIGHT Project facilitated 18 members from JICA and JKUAT to visit the school and give motivational talks to the school girls on October 17, 2014. The majority of the speakers were young women studying or teaching science or engineering at JKUAT. These young women offered advice as “elder sisters,” drawing on their own unique experiences to encourage the high school girls not to fear mathematics or science. They inspired and challenged the school girls to change their attitude and enjoy the fun and mystery of sciences. The school girls listened keenly and afterwards eagerly asked questions about campus life and sounded enthusiastic about exploring the sciences as a future career path. Through the collaboration between JKUAT and the girls’ school, BRIGHT Project hopes to organize more exchange platforms between the two institutions.
On October 27th 2014, the JKUAT Wind-Solar hybrid research team installed the measuring devices and the data logger. The fabrication of the Kenyan-made small wind system is also on going in JKUAT.