Williamson Tea bags East Africa's largest solar farm

Jessica Shankleman

New Solarcentury project in Changoi will reduce company's dependency on diesel and power from the grid

Williamson Tea, famed for its elephant tea caddies, has cut the ribbon on a 1MW solar farm in western Kenya that will help curb its energy bills by nearly one third.

The solar farm is said to be the largest in East Africa to date and will reduce the firm's reliance on diesel engines and limit its exposure to grid blackouts.

The scheme was designed by British company Solarcentury and developed by local solar specialists East African Solar and Azimuth Power.

The solar panels will work in parallel with the grid to reduce the need for imported power to the site, but will also provide a back-up supply alongside standby generators when the grid is down.

The solar farm is part of Williamson Tea's wider commitment to renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, which includes initiatives to install solar street lamps for local communities and solar-powered heat exchangers at its factories.

Frans van den Heuvel, Solarcentury chief executive, said the scheme showed how solar PV technologies could help transform emerging economies and meet a rising demand for power without increasing carbon emissions.

"Sustainable energy sources are becoming more critical especially as the cost of fossil fuel energy continues to rise globally," he said in a statement.

"By choosing solar, Williamson Tea is not only investing in the company's sustainable future but also local people and the future of the tea farming industry in Kenya."

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