East Africa's first solar panel factory opens in Kenya
Yesterday, I travelled to Naivasha, Kenya, with our Macrosolar Assistant, Hudson, to attend the official opening of East Africa's first solar panel factory!
This feels like a great step forward for the solar sector in East Africa. Years ago, together with a handful of like-minded individuals, I worked with community groups in Kenya and Tanzania to set up small scale solar manufacturing units, making 1 - 2 watt panels that powered radios and mobile phones. These were great projects but we always felt that to reach true scale, we would need to set up a high-tech manufacturing unit with a lot of finance behind it. So yesterday was an extra special moment as it looks like Ubbink have nailed it!
From what we saw and heard yesterday, Ubbink, together with its international partners and the Dutch Government, has set up a highly professional factory, which is manufacturing over 100 panels a day of various sizes - to European standards. And they look great.
Walking around the factory, I was impressed with the enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff working on the assembly line. They clearly know their stuff... and I could tell Hudson was impressed too as I had to work hard to tear him away at the end of the day!
Ubbink have already teamed up with local solar and batteries suppliers, Chloride Excide, so their panels will be available across Kenya and soon, the region. It's great to have panels made in East Africa, for East Africa. This feels like a landmark moment and it is hopefully just the beginning of greater investment in solar manufacturing for Africa.
There is so much sun here, so many skills and so many opportunities! It will be interesting to see how successful these solar panels become and if they can compete with international imports. Let's hope so!
For more information please visit http://www.ubbink.co.ke/
John Keane, Head of Programmes, started off as an urban planner before developing a deep interest in international development and solar energy. As a volunteer with Student Partnerships Worldwide in Tanzania, he became acutely aware of the pressing need for affordable, renewable energy in the rural communities. Once back in the UK, he researched the concept of micro solar and raised his own funds to go back to Africa and train solar entrepreneurs in Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Malawi and a number of other countries. He is the world leader on micro solar and a committed development expert.
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