A United Nations project being launched in Kenya will help about a dozen tea plantations build mini-hydropower projects to cut their energy costs, and maybe even export clean electricity to the national grid or rural electrification schemes.
“Tea production needs lots of water, so most of these sites are located near good sources,” Catherine Vallee, a senior U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) official, said. “Many are suitable for small hydropower projects and some have potential to produce more electricity than they can use.”
UNEP will give about US$3.4 million to the plan, which it hopes will draw a further US$25 million from bilateral donors, financial institutions, governments, and the tea producers themselves. Work on the 1- to 2-MW hydropower projects is to begin within a year.
Under the scheme, which is backed by the African Development Bank, excess production would be fed to the national grid. European Union funds also are being used to see if excess generation could independently power neighboring villages with some of the lowest electricity access rates in the world.
Tea project to expand mini-hydro to other nations
The project eventually will be rolled out in several African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. But it is starting in Kenya, which is among the world’s top three black tea producers with India and Sri Lanka.
In 2006, Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) awarded a feasibility study contract to Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc. of the United States for a pilot program to standardize small hydro project development for KTDA, dubbed the world’s largest smallholder tea organization with 53 tea factories. (HNN 3/14/06)
With a US$341,670 grant from the United States, Rizzo studied: six mini-hydropower projects; energy audits of three tea factories; and an evaluation of one tea factory for employing biomass as boiler fuel. The total development project is estimated to cost US$17.35 million.