Are you one of those who constantly complain about Kenya Power whenever there is a one minute or eight hours blackout? I bet you are. I am 100% sure you do. But why do you complain? Is it because there is no alternative to your bi-weekly power problems? If you live in Eastlands, then your power problems could be as frequent as every three days. But you have always known there is a way out of Kenya Power’s unreliability – it is called Solar Power. For those of us at the Equator, we have access to the highest quality solar energy yet we are the ones who use it the least. Ironic.
For example, as of this morning, there was no power at Dunga road, Hazina, and Zanzibar road all in South B, Evergreen estate, and Buruburu. According to those from Umoja and Buruburu, whenever it rains…they don’t have power.
The problem is worse when you visit rural areas especially the Western part of Kenya. The last time I visited Webuye, Bungoma, Mumias, Sega, Usenge, Awendo, Migori and Ndhiwa, the places had no power. Information I got from residents of those places is that they were used to a life without power for up to two weeks and when Kenya Power sorted out their darkness, the light couldn’t last for more than two days.
Related article – You can offer Kenyans free Solar Power and they still would not use it
It is places like Eastlands and rural areas of Kenya that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, wants to help with his new innovation – the Powerwall. “The future, as Musk sees it, is in batteries supplanting the need for power lines in remote areas that don’t currently have electricity” writes Digital Trend.
The Powerwall by Tesla
The Powerwall by Tesla is a huge (in terms of power bank) battery system meant to power homes, businesses and utilities. The reason Powerwall is a game changer is that it is not as ugly and user unfriendly as your typical back-up battery system by guys like Chloride-Exide. “The issue with existing batteries is that they suck.” “They’re expensive, large, and unsightly,” said Elon when introducing the Powerwall. “The 51-by-33.8-by-7-inch Powerwall, on the other hand, looks like a beautiful sculpture”.
Is it true that you have not been using solar power energy solutions because they are ugly? My uncle installed a solar power solution in his one bedroom house near Ndhiwa. I visited his house and I didn’t like the installation. The Chloride-Exide batteries were badly arranged in the living room. The cables ran haphazardly underneath and behind the seats. The room was completely a mess. But he was making cool money out of his ugly installation. He was charging mobile phones for Shs 20 per phone and by that time, he couldn’t miss charging at least 30 phones each day.
If it is not the inconvenience of an ugly installation that has made you stick with Kenya Power then it must be the cost. There was a time I did some window shopping to find out how much I would pay for a complete solar solution for my rural house. To power four 100 watts light bulbs, a 50 watts TV and a 25 watts Home Theatre, I would have parted with Kshs 65,000. The calculation assumed that my night time usage will last for four hours utmost – so basically the battery would be a 0.5Kwh rating; and that was priced at Kshs 15,000. The Powerwall, apart from being a beautiful battery system, is also cheap, extremely cheap. The lowest kilowatt hours you can buy is 7 Kwh and that will cost you Kshs 210,000 ONLY. That’s before you buy a solar panel, inverter, and do the installation.
Why Powerwall is [not] cheaper
Powerwall is a battery system that promise to revolutionize the energy industry. “Our goal… is to change the way the world uses energy at an extreme scale”, said Elon. One sector this revolution is expected to take effect is in the electric cars. “Charging an electric vehicle at home can be expensive, and while solar power offers a way to reduce those costs when the sun goes down owners have had no choice to charge their vehicles with power from the grid. A robust home battery system like Powerwall could allow owners to store that solar-generated power during the day even if they’re away, and then use it to charge their vehicle at night. Batteries can absorb surplus power and flow it back into the grid when needed, evening out supply and demand, something called load shifting”, The Verge explained.
As Powerwall is cleaner, quieter and more efficient, many businesses will find it more useful as backup power than the traditional diesel generators. If more businesses drop the use of fuel based energy generators that contribute to CO2 emissions, the impact Powerwall will have in reversing global warming could be beyond what has already been imagined.
Thirdly, Powerwall offers energy generating companies a means with which they can store power. Currently power is supplied as demanded in real time. When demand is lower than generated, the excess power goes to waste whereas when there is high demand, the supply can only be met by powering another generator. However, if the power generation company had ability to store power efficiently, then excess power generated during low demand could be stored and unleashed during peak hours. Again, the cost saving with such a system is enormous.
It therefore happens that Powerwall is suitable for business and industrial uses but still way out of reach for domestic consumers. According to a commenter in Forbes, Powerwall is not worth investing in as a domestic consumer as “with the current pricing at $3000 to $3500 for the battery pack alone and only a nominal 5Amp output with 8.5 amp peak,” it can’t be worth his investment. He continues, “I would like to see 40A output. A desktop computer setup pulls on average 2 to 2.5A continuously. TV will pull about 1, then you have your other electronics, phone chargers, clocks, radios, lights… This is nothing but a gimmick for those looking for status. Pair the battery up with a good transformer and you might have a dealmaker.”
Powerwall, it turns out, does not solve your problems with Kenya Power but your ordinary solar power solutions can still sort you out – for less than Kshs 100K that includes the battery, solar panel, inverter and installation.