FEATURE-Home-grown Kenyan solar farm powers computers - and ...
OLOSHO-OIBOR, Kenya, Jan 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When the first few residents of this village in the Ngong hills installed solar panels, nearly a decade ago, the only aim was to power their own homes, as their town had no connection to the national power grid.
But today the community, south of Nairobi in the Rift Valley, is buzzing with solar and wind energy, which powers everything from the dispensary and church to shops, homes and even a rescue centre for girls fleeing child marriage and the threat of female genital mutilation.
Residents say they banded together to buy the shared energy system themselves, recognising that the substantial upfront cost would create benefits for years to come. Those now include everything from vaccines that can now be kept cold at the dispensary to solar-powered pumping of water.
"Before we started this solar farm, people from this village used to travel to Ngong town, which is 17 kilometers away, to get basic services and goods such as a photocopy or a haircut. This used to inconvenience us greatly since you had to part with a tidy sum," said Simon Parkesian, the manager of the community's solar farm.
In 2009, some residents of Olosho-Oibor, impressed with a first couple of private solar panels installed in the community, decided they wanted panels of their own - but many people could not afford them.
So a group of community members began contributing cash - 10 dollars a month - until they had enough to buy a set of larger solar panels that could serve many nearby homes.
They then approached the U.N. Industrial Development Organization for technical help in installing their system. Today the 125-member energy cooperative has raised $4,900 for panels - installed on poles around the community and on rooftops - and installed two small wind turbines as well.
The community also has a 10-kilowatt diesel generator as a backup in periods when both sunshine and wind fall short, but that is used only occasionally, Parkesian said.
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