International solar company, Solarcentury, will install a ground-mounted 500kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system at Moi International Airport, Mombasa, that will generate 820,000 kWh per year and offset 1,300 tonnes of CO₂ annually. The system will be interconnected to the airport terminal grid, and will prioritise consumption of the solar power over the grid.
Solarcentury will also install airport gate electrification equipment consisting of a mobile electric-powered pre-conditioned air (PCA) unit and an electric 400 Hz Ground Power Unit (GPU) converter and importantly a large battery storage that will provide uninterrupted power to the PCA and GPU whilst in use.
The electricity generated from the solar photovoltaic panels will power the gate equipment which will supply pre-conditioned air and compatible electric power respectively to aircraft docked at an existing passenger boarding bridge (PBB), or parked at a remote stand.
They will eliminate existing carbon emissions from the aircraft on-board auxiliary power unit (APU) powered by jet fuel and from portable ground power units (GPU) fuelled by diesel, by providing pre-conditioned air and compatible electricity that runs on solar energy to aircraft during ground operations.
This marks the first airport to have a solar PV system installed in East Africa. It will pave a critical step in reducing the carbon footprint of aviation in Africa, in support of the environmental objectives of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) member states.
Once completed, the solar system will enable the international airport to save many thousands of dollars per year on grid consumption for at least 25 years, while reducing aviation carbon emissions.
Guy Lawrence, Director of Solarcentury East Africa commented: “This is an exciting project for Solarcentury as it not only heralds the first International Airport in East Africa to turn to solar PV and battery storage, but it also entails the addition of the PCA and GPU to enable arriving aircraft to offset all their carbon emissions on the ground. We are looking forward to working with ICAO, KCAA and KAA on this pioneering project”.
The project is part of a Ksh 752 million (€6.5 million) initiative, entitled “Capacity Building for CO2 Mitigation from International Aviation”, implemented by ICAO and funded by the European Union targeting 14 countries – 12 of them from the African region and two from the Caribbean region – to reduce CO2 emissions in the aviation sector.
This initiative aims to support efforts by countries in developing and implementing their action plans on CO2 emissions reduction from international aviation, to establish aviation environmental systems for emissions monitoring at the state level and to implement mitigation measures in selected states.
The solar-at-gate project at Moi International Airport is expected to spur interest among other ICAO’s member states as a successful example on how to tackle the impacts of aviation on the environment, which may be replicated at a larger scale.
Jane Hupe, Deputy Director Environment for ICAO, said: “The implementation of these “solar-at-gate” projects is a good example of how to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve greater sustainability in the aviation sector by using renewable energy technology. There is a great interest from ICAO member states to embark on these projects and the availability of funding from partners will allow ICAO to support their replication at a global scale.”
Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director Jonny Andersen noted that “we are excited to be the premier airports authority in the region to have the Solar PV system installed. The expected savings on electricity as well as reduction in carbon emissions will contribute towards the efficient operations of Moi International Airport.”
Work on the site will take 10 months and the systems are expected to be generating solar electricity by 2019. Solarcentury will provide two years of operations and maintenance on the system, and will set up two educational kiosks inside the terminal building to provide the public with real-time information on power output and carbon emission reductions over the life of the system.
Other successful projects undertaken by Solarcentury include a solar carport at Nairobi’s Garden City Mall, the installation of three solar PV plants at the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), and setting up of a roof solar system belonging to London Distillers in Athi River, Kenya. This also follows the signing of a contract to build Solar PV at a Unilever Tea Factory in Kericho, earlier this year.