Sollatek Electronics (Kenya) Ltd has been in operation since 1985. It has been running as the sole authorized agent for Sollatek products and the owner of the Sollatek franchise in East Africa. The company’s Head Office is located in Mombasa.
The firm operates as a wholesale and projects outfit selling their products through a region-wide network of distributors and using their expertise for installation. The company deals with both domestic and commercial power control, power backup, solar lighting and solar systems.
In Kenya, for instance Sollatek’s clients consist of individuals, farms or communities who lack access to electricity, especially in rural areas where water pumping is needed for farming, access to drinking water and agricultural processes.
According to the Sustainable Project Manager Mr. Nicolas Geze, enquires for solar water pumping involve the need to power pumps for irrigation and agriculture process. With many regions lacking the necessary infrastructure to supply energy for farming and domestic use, solar powered pumps become both a good economic and environmental choice.
An initiative that was first started in Nyeri earlier on this year, Sollatek has worked with several farms and communities to install solar powered borehole pumps providing enough water for irrigation, drinking and livestock.
Accompanying the installation, Sollatek provided training as well as after sales services. The initial feedback on these partnerships has been positive. Several farms state their harvest has increased, helping them met their goals.
Just like with any other industry, Sollatek has also had a number of challenges that more often than not make it difficult to reach this technology’s full potential. Mr. Imran Khan, who is in charge of projects and partnership development in Kenya, points out the boreholes as the main challenge to their work.
Most of the boreholes dug in different parts of the country are not done by professionals, many times lacking proper drilling reports which can cause them to either run dry or collapse while in use.
Official drilling report is needed for all boreholes in Kenya to ensure quality of water and protect Kenyan water supply. Drilling report is also vital in the selection of the correct pump and design of solar system to power that pump as it will give the actual characteristics of the borehole such as its yield, static water level and pumping water level.
According to Mr, Khan a borehole should have a particular capability that is determined by the professional diggers with a drilling report or a test pumping report. Furthermore, the Water Resources Authority (WARMA) of Kenya issued out a rule that the water pumped out every hour from a borehole should never exceed 70% of the borehole yield.
Many people are easily put off from adapting renewable energy practices by the high upfront pricing. This, Mr. Khan says, is because the costs are paid once covering the cost of the equipment as well as installation instead of the ongoing cost of running and maintaining a generator.
To fully understand the savings you just need to do a comparison. Odeh, Yohanis & Norton, (2006) compared the price of solar powered pumping systems with diesel powered: the upfront cost of a 2.8Kw Solar water pumping system at that time was, $18,188 or KES 1.8M. The upfront cost for the equivalent size of diesel-powered system was $3,840 or KES 384,000.
If you look at the cost of operating these 2 systems over 10 years, you would find that the Solar powered system would have costed $24,888 or KES 2.4 M to operate, while the equivalent size of diesel-powered system gets as high as $60,260 or KES 6.02M for the same period. Meaning a Solar Water Pumping System of this large size would save a customer over KES 2.18 M over 10 years or 34%.
To ease the upfront costs, Sollatek is looking to offer different payment options such as a rental program or installments for qualified organizations.
In addition to shying away because of lack of funds, most people are hardly aware of the workings of a solar system. Mr. Geze singles out an instance where a potential end user will opt not to purchase the solar system thinking that the panels’ operational ability is hinged on the presence of the sun.
This, he explains, is not the case, “Although electricity production would be lower, solar panels are still able to operate in cloudy conditions. This is what the term photovoltaic means: the conversion of light (and not sun or sunshine) into electricity by using semiconducting materials. This is considered during the design phase of a system so that the system works all year, even on cloudy days”.
As far as new technologies in the field go, Mr. Khan believes that both pump design and solar modules manufacturing have room for design improvements that provide for more efficient systems. There is also a lot of innovation happening around this space with new technologies designed for both commercial and domestic use on water purification, desalination, water management through remote monitoring systems and water ATM. Sollatek is excited to be involved in this dynamic field.
Sollatek insists that the future is bright as innovation increases and prices decrease accelerating the uptake of solar powered pumping systems.