National Research Fund (NRF) has awarded three physics researchers from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) over Ksh. 18 million worth of grant to implement their project dubbed “development of a small wind-solar hybrid system for electrification of rural households in Kenya”.
The researchers, who include the Principal Investigator, Prof. Joseph Ngugi Kamau, Dr. Churchill Saoke and Ms. Doreen Irungu are working alongside two other researchers, Dr. Joseph Gathua and Dr. David Wekesa from Kenyatta University (KU) Multi Media University (MMU) respectively.
The equipment already acquired by the project include; Automatic weather station with a 10-channel data logging system for measuring rain fail, wind speed, wind direction, air pressure, temperature, and solar irradiance; Automatic small portable 5 channel weather measuring equipment; High speed super computers capable of processing heavy softwares like ANSYS, PV Syst, HOMER and Energy pro and Full paid-up license for the following design software ANSYS, Windy software, PV Syst, HOMER and Energy Pro among six others that were initially bought.
The project aims at developing affordable small wind-solar hybrid system that can be locally manufactured will ensure access to modern energy services in rural areas in Kenya.
The researchers have already been able to undertake measurement of wind speed and direction in Machakos and Kitui Counties and the data obtained used in designing a small-scale wind rotor for small-scale applications.
While lauding the five researchers for their commendable job, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) in charge of Research Production and Extension (RPE) Prof. Mary Abukutsa observed that the project will be beneficial in several ways, in that, it will provide laboratory materials for renewable energy to students and encourage them to further their studies in this field too.
She further said the project when completed, will not only be beneficial to the University but also enlighten the communities on ways of saving energy and other alternative energy options.
“The project has created jobs for the informal sector (technicians) who have been engaged in the fabrication on the various components of the turbines. It has also promoted the academia and industry linkage through engagement of researchers and students with solar and wind plants in the course of its implementation,” Prof. Abukutsa asserted.
Speaking during the commissioning of the equipment in JKUAT’s green building the Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET) lab on Wednesday 11, May, 2022, Prof. Kamau said that with about Ksh. 9.5 million received so far, the project has developed two wind systems (25W and 400W) and funded the research activities of 6 postgraduate students. It has also acquired equipment for resource assessments and softwares for simulations and design.
“The research has also purchased new equipment for renewable energy that would be useful beyond the project period to the students pursuing courses in renewable energy both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. The equipment will indeed beef up the capacity of the renewable energy course at the department of physics towards producing market-oriented students with the required skills for the energy sector,” he asserted.
The effect of carbon dioxide emission from conventional energy coupled with the issues of energy security, as well as the cost of grid extension to areas far from the grid has driven the world to continue to adopt renewable energy source. This, according to the researchers, make this project timely as it comes at a time when there is wide disparity of electrification level between the urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
On his part, the Principal College of Pure and Applied Sciences (COPAS) Prof. George Thiong’o, urged the students to familiarize themselves with the new softwares required in their areas of specialization to be able to operate most of the equipment used in their specific areas.
Also present at the event were the Chairman of Physics Department, Dr. Antony Kiroe, former Principal COPAS, Prof. David Mulati, Physics staff members Dr. Maurice Korowe, Dr. Calvin Ominde, Dr. James Munyithya, Dr. Churchill Saoke and IEET Assistant Registrar Mr. Vitalis Opondo.