Aquion Energy, manufacturer of Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, and SolarAfrica, a leading African solar energy services company, have announced the installation of an off-grid microgrid at the Loisaba Conservancy, a hub for wildlife research and a world-class ecotourism destination in Kenya.
The microgrid, which was funded, designed, installed, and integrated by SolarAfrica, consists of two independent systems, each of which has 106 kWh of Aquion batteries paired with a 37 kW solar array. This off-grid solar-plus-storage system has replaced diesel generators to power a commercial laundry, swimming pool, kitchen, business services, lighting, cooling, and other facility loads.
‘Loisaba comprises 56,000 acres of pristine lands, populated by hundreds of animal species and enjoyed by thousands of visitors and guests each year,’ said Tom Silvester, CEO of the Loisaba Conservancy. ‘We embrace the idea of living lightly on the earth, minimising our carbon footprint and maintaining a clean, safe, and sustainable environment. The use of Aquion saltwater batteries in tandem with SolarAfrica’s solar powered solutions is perfectly aligned with our approach to preserving nature, enabling us to generate power from the sun and store it for later use.’
At Loisaba, the solar array powers various loads from the facilities and pools, while also charging the Aquion batteries during the day. The batteries are discharged to provide power at night and during periods of cloud cover. This solution greatly reduces the use of noisy, high-emissions diesel generators, which had previously been the primary power source for the property. The result is a new standard in eco-friendliness and sustainability for ecotourism lodges in Africa.
Lodges that are located off-grid have traditionally used diesel generators, often in combination with lead-acid batteries, which are known for their toxicity and relatively short lifespan under deep cycling and partial state of charge usage. Aquion’s Aspen batteries offer a clean, sustainable, and long-lasting alternative which can operate at high ambient temperatures and does not degrade from partial state of charge cycling. Aspen batteries have a unique and environmentally friendly electrochemical design, and are the first and only batteries in the world to be Cradle to Cradle Certified.
Kobus van Tonder, project manager of SolarAfrica, said there were several highlights of this project for him and his team: ‘The outcome of this project has made many significant changes to the way we use energy and how we perceive it. We noticed how the lodge quickly descended into a blissfully quiet state, as the constant humming of generators were turned off. Another great benefit of switching to solar energy, and storing it effectively, is that it’s now significantly cheaper than running diesel generators, which also means that the consumption of diesel decreases, as does the carbon footprint.’
He added, ‘Battery technology is constantly evolving. This project created a lot of interest amongst the tour operators and investors alike. Aquion’s batteries are low maintenance compared to other storage products in the industry, and they removed the typical need for cooling, air-conditioning, and special ventilation.’
Thanks to the Aquion batteries and the solar power system, Loisaba expects to reduce diesel consumption by 95 percent and save 53 tons of CO2 per year. ‘Due to their safe, robust, and environmentally friendly chemistry, Aquion batteries, in combination with solar power, provide optimal performance in this challenging off-grid location,’ said Tim Poor, chief commercial officer of Aquion Energy.
The Loisaba Conservancy is effectively operated with a low carbon footprint and is continuously striving to reduce energy consumption even further. This is the first deployment of the Aquion Aqueous Hybrid Ion technology in Africa, which is now fully owned by the Conservancy. For SolarAfrica, the project has marked the second successful Power Purchase Agreement for off-grid systems in Kenya, with its third situated in South Africa, operating as Singita Camp in the Kruger National Park.