Microsoft Co-Founder Taps Kenya For Solar

Frontier Friday: Allen’s Vulcan To Offer Small-Scale Solar Plants

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has announced plans to sell 10 small-scale solar plants in Kenya that his private company constructed in recent years. Vulcan, Allen’s multi-billion dollar private firm has long been a proponent of clean and affordable energy on the sub-continent.

Vulcan has been operating electricity mini-grids for the pat two years in Samburu and Kajiado, Kenya, respectively. The firm has established a real presence in the country and has worked to connect homes and businesses to solar power as a social tool to transform lives.

Allen has reportedly stated his desire to use leverage power projects in an effort to further demonstrate the business viability of rural mini-grids to investors, empower communities and potentially jumpstart interest among businesses to invest in off-grid power solutions. Reports state Allen is “keen” to inject capital in Kenya’s green energy projects.

“We are looking to transfer ownership of the mini grids to private investors or government agencies with whom we are having talks,” Courtney Blodget, program officer for Vulcan said recently in Nairobi while on the sidelines of a solar energy conference organized by Netherlands-based SolarPlaza. “We are keen to invest in other strategic renewable energy projects.”

Solar panels in Kenya.

The company has been selling electricity to rural Kenyans at a tariff of between USD 1.80- 4.0 (Kenyan shillings (KES) 180-400 per kilowatt hour (kWh) unit, based on their consumption levels. This is higher than charges for solar power connected to the national grid which stands at KES12 per unit, due in part because clients do not pay any upfront charges for connection to mini-grids.