Strathmore University(SU) this year hit a mile stone by being the first University in Africa to have the largest solar panel rooftop. This achievement is one which will see the University revolutionize itself to ensure that it cuts down on energy costs that have arisen from the high number of students, as it also safeguards the environment by using natural resources. This year Strathmore University embarked on the solar panel project with the help of Quest Works, a real estate project management and consulting company. Its success story is detailed below.
Description of the system
This is a brief description of how the system works. A PV solar power plant converts UV rays form the sun into electricity. The UV rays are captured by solar panels and converted from direct current to alternative current by inverters. During the day, Strathmore’s energy needs are provided for by the system, with any excess supplied to the grid at a fixed pre-determined rate. At night, Strathmore consume power from the grid. No storage is currently available on the premises due to the high purchase and maintenance cost of storage equipment.
The system is composed of 2,400 solar panels and 30 inverters. The system is spread over the rooftops of six buildings within the SU campus in Madaraka. The system is accessed through ladders and catwalks that were designed to ensure the system can be cleaned and maintained easily. Daily power production is 2.2 to 2.8 megawatt hours and is monitored at panel level. A cutting edge monitoring software allows people working on the project to login and monitor power produced by each panel on a real time basis, thus ensuring that any potential problems are spotted and corrected early.
On completion, this is the largest rooftop PV solar power plant in the region. Currently existing similar plants are at the UNEP headquarters (515 KW) in Gigiri.
The lead consultant for this project is Raul Figueroa, an electrical engineer with vast experience in power systems and project management. He was in charge of detailed feasibility analysis, system sizing and general project strategy. Philip Mwangi, also an electrical engineer, is the project manager who supervised a team of up to 60 labourers during project implementation. Philip and Raul were supported by the team from Quest Works in international procurement, payroll and other administrative functions.
Project Duration and Impact
Quest Works delivered the project 1 month ahead of schedule, taking 5 months in total to complete it. The system was delivered at 1.3M USD, a significant discount to bids previously received. This reduced project cost reduced the payback period from 10 to 7 years. Quest Works was able to do this through competitive sourcing of system components, optimisation of system size as well as a modular approach to the building of the system, where rather than one large monolithic system, the project was arranged as a series of small interconnected modules. This approach is easier to implement and also maintain. The system makes Strathmore to be the first carbon neutral university in the region by allowing it to produce more power than it consumes, while at the same time selling excess power to the grid and increasing the country’s energy capacity as per Vision 2030.
SU hopes to use this system to provide hands-on training in installation and maintenance of grid-connected PV solar power plants.
Other statistics; • Equivalent light bulbs lit for 1 day; 6,665 – 8,484 light bulbs • Equivalent trees planted for a month;90 – 120 trees • Equivalent C02 saved for a day;862 kg – 1097 kg • Monetary savings in electricity per month; KES 1.5M – 2M