ABB: microgrids provide solutions to energy challenges in Africa

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In Kenya, a microgrid is providing a reliable electric supply for an International Red Cross center that could no longer rely on the mainland grid, while another has harnessed wind energy for a remote village that never had the option of connecting to a central grid.

The country plans to quadruple its energy output in the next five years bringing on board an additional 5,000 megawatts (MW) of power capacity, with the aim of providing the majority of its approximately 50 million citizens access to electricity by 2020. The renewable energy sector in Kenya is among the most active in Africa, and the country possesses some of the continent’s most abundant and consistent wind resources.

Marsabit is an oasis at the edge of the desert in a windy area of northern Kenya. The city has a population of 5,000 and is not connected to any national grid for its power needs. Being a remote community served by an isolated microgrid, it requires a secure, stable power supply based on easily available and preferably clean sources, like wind.

Today’s electricity supply for the area relies on diesel generators and two 275 kilowatt (kW) wind turbines. ABB’s containerized, 500 kilowatt (kW) PowerStore stabilization system will be integrated into the existing power network and will interface with existing diesel power station controls. This will maximize renewable energy penetration by stabilizing the grid connection and utilizing any excess wind energy generated. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

“Sustainable development of Africa and fostering microgrid solutions are both key focus areas in ABB’s Next Level strategy and dedicated 1000 day programs have been constituted for them” said Claudio Facchin, President, Power Systems division. “Our microgrid technology solutions can significantly boost renewable integration and can play a key role in helping isolated and remote communities to gain access to clean electricity as in this case.”

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