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Towards a sustainable Strathmore University: 600 kW Grid Connected Solar Energy System

Q: Prof. Da Silva, give a brief overview on the new sustainability policy that your office has drafted and what it means for SU.

With over 5,000 students and 500 staff, Strathmore University (SU) is a significant contributor to the Kenyan economy and with this comes the responsibility to ensure that SU operations, our students and staff have a minimum adverse environmental impact. The Policy outlines SU’s key commitments, over and above legal compliance, to incorporate sustainability in all of our business operations and demonstrate that environmental sustainability is one of the University’s key priorities.

Q. What areas is SU targeting in regard to implementation of the sustainability policy?

Global practice shows that countries which are paying more for fossil fuel based electricity are not exploring the options of renewable sources of energy. Strathmore is seeking to implement the sustainability policy in aspects such as: waste management, biogas, solar PV and solar thermal and also wind. We have started installation of solar panels on the rooftops of the University buildings as one of the projects that will see SU generate approximately 900,000 units of energy per year. Once we have addressed self –consumption the balance is to be sold to Kenya Power through a power purchase agreement.

Q. This must be expensive, how did the University finance the Solar PV project?

As you may be aware, due to global warming, there is concern worldwide on how organizations can ensure less use of fossil fuels and adopt instead renewable sources of energy in to their operations. Since December 2012 the Government of Kenya, through Ministry of Energy, offered incentives to institutions that will invest in renewable energy by offering to buy the power directly from these institutions.


SU then obtained a soft loan from the French government, through Cooperative Bank, at a rate of 4.1% p.a. for the amount for this project, with a moratorium period of 12 months.


Projections show that SU will, through the solar panels, make savings on electricity bill (currently an average of Kshs. 2 million per month), and these savings will go towards repayment of the loan. Upon completion of repayment in 7 years, then the University will enjoy the PV Solar system fully paid for and providing for the power needs of the University. The figure below shows graphically what this will look like.

Q. What other benefits does the University stand to gain from this project?

Firstly, Strathmore will be proud to contribute to reducing global warming, and will be 1st zero carbon footprint University in Sub-Saharan Africa. This will also make SU a more attractive partner for projects on sustainability specifically on renewable energy.  Through the Strathmore Energy Research Centre, we are already attracting partners such as GIZ, DANIDA, DFID, etc.


Secondly, the Solar PV system will also be a hands-on training tool for training engineers with practical learning experience so much needed in Kenya. This will have a positive impact in the building of the solar industry in our country and the East African region.


Q. Any final thoughts?

Over the years, the Strathmore brand has been on the forefront of offering solutions to current challenges in our society. In the 1960-70s, Strathmore was able to build capacity in accounting profession not only in Kenya, but also in the region through the Strathmore School of Accountancy. In the 90s, the IT and Business courses served and continue to be relevant in building capacity for the corporate Kenya. Currently, the issues of climate change and renewable energy have taken centre stage at a global level and hence Strathmore Energy Research Centre vision to convert Strathmore into the institution of choice for training, research and consultancy in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region.


Finally I would say that blazing the trail in the use of natural energy sources, gives Strathmore an opportunity to be a change agent in our society, showing institutions how this can be done in a commercially viable fashion.