Hydrobox, SolarNow bring Kenya’s first hybrid solar-hydro plant online

By bne IntelliNews October 11, 2023

Belgian-based hydropower company Hydrobox and Kenya-based C&I solar company SolarNow have commissioned a 1,200 m2 mini-grid hybrid solar-hydro plant in Gitwamba, rural Nairobi, pv magazine reports.

Located on the premises of a formerly abandoned hydro project, the facility uses the water flow of the nearby Rwamuthambi river to power a crossflow turbine, managed by Hydrobox, expected to deliver 50 KW of hydropower with a design flow of 0.65 m3/s. The solar array, managed by SolarNow, has an installed capacity of 150 KW with expectations to ramp up to 350 KW next year.

Hydrobox CTO Rik Vereecken told the industry publication that solar capture and storage would be the plant’s primary energy source with hydropower acting as the secondary one. “This combination leads to a stable and consistent power generation system,” he said.

SolarNow director and CFO Ernst Vriesendorp told pv magazine that the technicalities between hydro and solar had “proven complementary” but did provide details as to how the solar component was comprised.

Hydrobox sales manager Annelies Vanderwaeren said a power purchase agreement (PPA) with an unspecified business owner – whom Hydrobox consider their “anchor customer” – has been secured along with another PPA with a “bigger telecom provider”.

She also told pv magazine that the Gitwamba project should be completely online by year’s end, adding the $650,000 project was financed through private equity funding and crowdfunding, with the latter garnering $263,511.

By the end of 2022, Kenya's total installed solar capacity stood at 307 MW, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), with around 90 MW newly deployed last year.

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