East Africa’s first solar panel factory opens in Naivasha

Solar panels on a roof.
Solar panels on a roof. Solar is easily the most economical power solution. PHOTO/FILE
A Sh250 million solar panel factory has been opened in Naivasha as a United Nations (UN) report says photovoltaic modules have become more price-competitive.

Ubbink East Africa Ltd., the owners of the factory, said they will manufacture about 30,000 high quality, KEBS certified (Kenya Bureau of Standards) solar panels per year – particularly for small solar systems.

“We will be producing 100 solar panels per day. Our prices are at par with our competitors,” said Ubbink East Africa Managing Director Mr Haijo Kuper during the official opening of the factory.

Ubbink, a joint venture between Dutch Ubbink B.V and Chloride Exide – Kenya’s largest supplier of batteries and solar panels, is currently making solar panels of 13 to 120 watts, targeting rural households.

The Naivasha based factory will be the first to make photovoltaic (PV) solar panels in East and Central Africa.

The use of solar energy has gained popularity in Kenya over the past few years and there is a very high demand for solar panels. Solar energy has proved to be the most economical and beneficial power solution capable of reducing energy bills for households while protecting the environment.

More than 35,000 solar photovoltaic systems are sold in Kenya annually.

Recently, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said it had drafted solar PV regulations that will require solar water heating systems to be installed on all buildings.

“The choice to invest in Kenya was a deliberate one, due to the country’s efficient distribution network for solar products, sound economic policies and good infrastructure,” Mr Kuper said adding that the company was planning to venture outside East Africa.

The opening of the factory comes barely three months after the UN reported that the price of PV modules per megawatt had fallen 60% since mid-2008, making solar power the most competitive form of energy in sunny regions.

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