Africa’s first grid-linked biogas plant starts running in Kenya; firm plans Ghana project too

The plant will be fed 50,000 metric tons of plant waste a year sourced from VegPro Group, East Africa’s biggest exporter of vegetables to the UK.

TROPICAL Power Kenya has started producing power at Africa’s first biogas plant connected to the national grid, Managing Director Johnnie McMillan said. 

The company expects to finalise an agreement within weeks to sell the electricity for 10 cents per kilowatt hour to Kenya Power, the country’s sole electricity distributor, McMillan said in an interview at the project in Naivasha, 77 kilometers (48 miles) north of the capital, Nairobi. That’s about a quarter of the cost of diesel-fired generation. 

The 2.2-megawatt plant will be fed 50,000 metric tons of plant waste a year sourced from VegPro Group, East Africa’s biggest exporter of vegetables to the U.K. VegPro will be given power to run its own Naivasha farm and use some of the residual waste to make organic fertiliser, said McMillan. 

The plant was built at a cost of $7.5 million using anaerobic digesters supplied by U.S.-based General Electric Co. Tropical Power will be able to generate heat to market to nearby farms for their greenhouses, and the company plans to build a 10-megawatt solar-power plant near the biogas facility to also feed through to the grid. 

The company is lobbying the government for an increase in the power-purchase rate, said McMillan, citing a similar project that it wants to develop in Ghana and charge as much as 16 cents per kilowatt hour. “We are seeking other joint ventures with such farms like VegPro to build more plants,” he said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking to increase power generation in the East African nation by 5 gigawatts over the five years through 2017. Unreliable and expensive power supplies are cited by businesses as a deterrent to investment. McMillan said in February that the charge is 38 cents per kilowatt hour to put diesel-generated electricity into the national grid.

-Bloomberg

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