Tropical Power commissions pioneering biogass plant

Tropical Power Energy Group (Tropical Power) has built and is commissioning the first grid-connect Anaerobic Digester (AD) plant in Africa, in Naivasha Kenya

  • First grid-connect biogas plant in Africa
  • To improve energy efficiency and food security for Kenya
  • First biogas power purchase agreement with Kenya Power

30 January 2015, Naivasha, Kenya… Tropical Power Energy Group (Tropical Power) has built and is commissioning the first grid-connect Anaerobic Digester (AD) plant in Africa, in Naivasha Kenya. The 2.2 MW Gorge Farm AD Plant will be selling electricity into the local grid and to Gorge Farm.

This facility utilises local organic crop waste as feedstock for an innovative two-stage AD plant that is consistently up to 30% more efficient than conventional single-stage plants. This waste is digested by micro-organisms feeding in the absence of oxygen to produce biogas. The biogas is then combusted in gas engines to produce electricity and heat.

Johnnie McMillan, Managing Director, Tropical Power says, “The Gorge Farm AD Plant is a pioneering power project for Kenya. Distributed power projects are vital to Kenya’s energy security, reliability and efficiency, by generating electricity close to the point of use.

“Through biogas and solar, we want to displace expensive and imported generation fuels – like diesel and heavy fuel oil – from Kenya’s distributed power mix. The Gorge Farm AD Plant is physical proof that locally-produced feedstock can be used to generate clean and cost effective distributed power for all Kenyans.”

The Gorge Farm AD Plant utilises 50,000 tonnes of organic crop waste each year. And it will produce at least 35,000 tonnes of nitrogen-rich matter as a by-product from the biogas process. Gorge Farm will use this as rich natural fertiliser to improve soil conditioning and crop yields. This will displace an estimated 20% of synthetic fertiliser use and improve the farm’s bottom line.

McMillan says, “AD technology works hand in hand with large scale farming, as well as food and beverage production. This is exciting for Kenya, where agriculture is a mainstay of the economy and there is a strong domestic food production capability. We have worked with tier one partners to ensure the bankability of this and future projects for farmers and feedstock owners.”

Tropical Power’s partners include Kenya’s VP Group – the largest producer and exporter of fresh produce in East Africa. Tropical Power has an exclusive development licence with Snow Leopard Projects GmbH – the world’s leading developer of AD technology, based in Germany.

GE was selected to deploy its Jenbacher gas engines (provided by Clarke Energy) for the first time in East Africa in a renewable energy project. GE’s two J420 units are designed to operate at the farm’s high altitude of nearly 2,000 meters above sea level. The containerized gas engines are configured for cogeneration, with surplus heat recovered as hot water and used to support the Plant’s process heating.

George Njenga, Distributed Power Leader for Africa, GE says, “This is the first AD project in sub-Saharan Africa for GE and it demonstrates how our Jenbacher gas engines can provide reliable and clean on-site power. The Gorge Farm AD Plant is using local feedstock and labour to help promote energy and economic security for Kenya. We’re excited to be working with Tropical Power, with their African engineering and development experience, on this and other projects across the region.”

The Gorge Farm AD Plant was constructed in less than 12 months and it cost US$6.5 million (KES591 million) to build. It is projected to have a 5.5-year payback period – due to the combination of grid sales and higher-tariff energy supply to Gorge Farm. The plant has an effective lifecycle of more than 20 years.

Mike Nolan, Operations Director, Tropical Power says, “When we started this project there were no experienced engineers in Kenya to build and operate a plant of this kind. Our partners have worked with us to transfer knowledge to our engineering team and give them hands-on operational experience from other facilities around the world. We will apply this experience and expertise in developing this category and other projects in East and West Africa.”

The Gorge Farm AD Plant will be owned and managed by Biojoule Kenya, an Independent Power Producer (IPP). This is the first AD plant ever to be granted a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power in January 2015 and it will be providing power to the grid in March 2015 – subject to ratification by ERC.

Nolan concludes, “Tropical Power is 50% Kenyan-owned and has employed 50 Kenyans in developing the Gorge Farm AD Project. It will provide a great shop front for other African project developers to view cutting-edge biogas technology and skills.”

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About Tropical Power

Tropical Power Energy Group (Tropical Power) is an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) company, building renewable energy solutions for Africa. It is focused on developing utility-scale renewable energy technologies from biomass and sunshine.

Tropical Power has built and commissioned the first grid-connect AD plant in Africa on Gorge Farm in Naivasha, Kenya. This is the 2.2MW Gorge Farm AD Plant. It is located on the Gorge Farm Energy Park, which will also house a 10 MW grid-connected solar PV plant. Tropical Power plans to build renewable power assets across Africa producing over 130MW of clean, distributed power by 2018.

About GE’s Distributed Power Business

GE Power & Water’s Distributed Power business is a leading provider of power equipment, engines and services focused on power generation at or near the point of use. Distributed Power’s product portfolio includes highly efficient industrial reciprocating engines and aeroderivative gas turbines that generate 100 kW to 100 MW of power for numerous industries globally. In addition, Distributed Power offers life cycle services and support for more than 37,000 distributed power products worldwide to help customers meet their business challenges—anywhere and anytime.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Distributed Power employs about 5,000 people around the world.

About GE

GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.ge.com.

About GE Power & Water

GE Power & Water provides customers with a broad array of power generation, energy delivery and water process technologies to solve their challenges locally. Power & Water works in all areas of the energy industry including renewable resources such as wind and solar, biogas and alternative fuels; and coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. The business also develops advanced technologies to help solve the world’s most complex challenges related to water availability and quality. Power & Water’s six business units include Distributed Power, Nuclear Energy, Power Generation Products, Power Generation Services, Renewable Energy and Water & Process Technologies. Headquartered in Schenectady, N.Y., Power & Water is GE’s largest industrial business.

Follow GE Power & Water on Twitter @GE_PowerWater and on LinkedIn. To hear the latest news and conversations for Distributed Power, use the Twitter hashtag #DistributedPower.

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Matthew Ward, Levanter Africa, mward@levanterafrica.com, +254728600535
Sophie Bochaberi, Levanter Africa, sbochaberi@levanterafrica.com, +254729110546