In the midst of Kenya’s worst power outage in decades, a small remote village named Kitonyoni managed to keep its lights on, thanks to an innovative solar mini-grid. The University of Southampton, part of the Energy for Development (e4D) project, spearheaded the initiative in 2012, making it the first of its kind in Africa.
The mini-grid, comprising solar photovoltaic panels and battery storage, covers only a few square meters but generates enough energy to power the entire Kitonyoni village, including its school and hospital. When Kenya experienced a massive 24-hour power outage, affecting most of its 50 million population, Kitonyoni remained illuminated.
Professor AbuBakr Bahaj from the University of Southampton’s Energy and Climate Change Division expressed the remarkable impact of the mini-grid, saying, “The Kitonyoni villagers were the envy of all Kenya, and people from the surrounding villages rushed into its trading center during the blackout to charge their mobile phones and appliances.”
The Kitonyoni mini-grid also serves as a rain collector, storing water for the village during the wet season, a crucial feature since the village is not connected to a main water supply. Villagers can also generate income by selling excess electricity to nearby towns and cities.
While the cause of Kenya’s prolonged blackout remains unclear, the success of the Kitonyoni mini-grid has prompted the Kenyan government to seek $150 million in funding from the World Bank to establish over 100 similar mini-grids across the country. Eng Isaac Kiva, Secretary for Renewable Energy, commended the reliability of the system and the potential to provide electrical power to millions of Africans without access to energy.
The Energy for Development project aims to expand the use of such solar mini-grids across Africa, where an estimated 600 million people lack access to electricity.
Source: Solar Quarter