Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited (CCKL) 12MW biomass-fueled, on-grid electricity generation project in Baringo County, Kenya

Cummins Cogeneration Limited (CCL) is a global joint-venture between USA-based Cummins and UK-based Gentech, an engineering, procurement, and construction contractor. CCL has four subsidiary special project vehicles, each with a specific geographic focus. CCKL is a project development and investment vehicle for CCL in Kenya.

CCKL is developing a 12MW biomass-fueled, on-grid electricity generation project in Baringo County, Kenya. The project is CCKL’s first project in sub-Saharan Africa. In the late stage of the development of the project, the Power Africa team has worked with CCKL to address key constraints. The Power Africa team facilitated power purchase agreement negotiations with Kenyan authorities as well as helped resolve issues with the grid connection, helping bring the Cummins project to fruition. The Power Africa team was also instrumental in project preparation analysis, including a feasibility study.

Details of the CCKL project in Baringo include:

• The power plant uses modular units, allowing project sizing to match local opportunities or constraints. Generation units can be designed, constructed, and commissioned quickly.

• CCL projects may be either located on-grid or in conjunction with isolated mini-grids. CCL has the expertise to operate and maintain mini-grid networks.

• CCL uses a biomass gasification technology that converts biomass into three components: electricity, waste heat and residual char. Electricity is fed to a grid (either isolated mini-grid, national grid) or captive customer; waste heat can be used in various processes, including those related to agriculture; the residual char can be used as a water filtration medium and as a fertilizer. The technology has very limited water requirements, and water that is used is recycled.

• CCKL is proposing to use mesquite wood as the source of biomass. From 1973, massive plantings of mesquite wood – known in Kenya as “mathenge weed” – were started around the Baringo County area, in an attempt to eradicate desertification of the land. However, as an invasive weed, mathenge weed invades agricultural and pasture land, watercourses, roadsides and wasteland, if left unmanaged. The use of mathenge weed means that the CCKL project will not compete for land versus agricultural use, and will actually open up land for pastoralists and agriculture – a link being established with the Feed the Future initiative.

Cummins efforts align with those of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute to control mathenge weed through improved utilization. This involves a number of activities, including using the plant for local charcoal production; using the pods and leaves as livestock feed, and using it as biomass for electricity production.

Biomass based power generation is a form of renewable energy that has lasting socio-economic impacts, as the fuel is sourced from local communities. A 1 MW plant utilizes yields from over 800 farmers and can jump-start an economy with employment and the establishment of support services. Cummins is proposing to enlist the support of local community based organizations to harvest mathenge weed near Baringo. It is estimated that it will require 2,500 workers. Cummins is in the process of training local populations to gather mathenge weed and is providing workers with the tools for farming. The Cummins project provides opportunities for job-creation for women, as it expects that women will form the majority of workers harvesting the plant.

Power Africa in Kenya supports the efforts of the Government of Kenya to build on the substantial accomplishments to date. Power Africa’s goals align very closely with the Government of Kenya’s goals to provide high-quality, reliable, and affordable energy for the Kenyan people. The project is replicable in Africa where bio-mass is available. CCKL has a planned pipeline of 18 projects in Kenya.

This project is priority project under Power Africa, an initiative announced by President Obama in June 2013, aims to add more than 10,000 Megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity in six focus countries by 2020.