What is the best implementation of solar energy for rose growers in Kenya? In July, Sam Hogervorst of Greenspark, will have the answer. At a Kenyan rose grower, he will compare four methods of solar mounting - on the ground, on the roof of the farm, on the greenhouse structure, on water - and make a cost-benefit analysis in which the ecological impact is included.
Solar panels at Fontana Farm Turi Molo, Kenya
Pros and cons of current implementations
Currently, in Kenya, solar panels are being installed on the ground or on the roof of the farm. "Both have pros and cons. The majority of the growers choose for the installation on the roof since it is the cheapest way. However, the roof of the farm is often not large enough. On the ground, one has more space, but it occupies the available land that can be used for cultivation. On top of that, it is more expensive as a fence is often needed to protect the solar panels from theft."
Innovative implementations, that Hogervorst wants to investigate, are solar panels on water and solar panels on the greenhouse structure. In Kenya, not much research has been done in the field of floating solar panels and particularly not for the greenhouse industry, he explains. According to him, this innovative way of collecting energy will have a lot of advantages. "Several projects have been carried out over the world and ecological speaking, it has proven to be beneficial for the cultivation of roses. When placing the panels on water, there is less evaporation, less algae growth and the panels are being cooled automatically which results in higher yields."
Another innovative way of implementing solar panels is placing them on the greenhouse structure. "In Kenya, the greenhouses are made of polyethylene. So, in order to place the solar panel on the greenhouse, we aim to place the solar modules on an extension of the upper greenhouse arch. A bifacial solar module will be used to capture radiation from both sides and increase the yield."
Direct purchase of lease?
On top of finding the best solar panel implementation, Hogervorst will also investigate how growers will invest in this project; direct purchase or lease.
Importance of solar energy among Kenyan growers
Over the year, more and more growers started to become interested in solar energy and the use of solar modules, but what's the reason? "There are several. First of all, the efficiency of solar modules improves year by year, which makes solar energy more and more feasible. Secondly, Kenya is located on the equator, so solar radiation is high. Thirdly, the power supply of KPLC is unreliable. Sometimes farms have more than 20 power outages per week, then they have to rely on their diesel generator. The diesel is expensive and the impact on the environment is high. And this brings us to the final reason to shift to solar panels; the majority of the flowers go to Europe and in Europe, sustainable production is being valued and becoming more and more important."
Interested to participate in this study? Feel free to contact Sam Hogervorst at firstname.lastname@example.org