Nairobi opens largest solar parking lot

Garden City mall is now home to Africa’s largest carport with solar panels for roofs. The solar electricity it generates is being used by the retail tenants to power facilities such as the lights and escalators in the Mall. The solar carport is powerful enough to power 550 urban homes in Nairobi every year.

The solar carport was enabled through a partnership between solar advisory and finance platform, SolarAfrica, and technical solar designer and contractor, Solarcentury, who opened its Nairobi office in 2013. In keeping with the Mall’s green ambitions, Actis were looking for a clean energy system that could produce clean energy and pay for itself through the energy it produces. By using solar electricity rather than grid energy, the Mall will cut carbon emissions by around 18,750 tonnes over the lifetime of the solar system.

The system is located on the uppermost storey of the car park at Garden City Mall, part of the Garden City integrated residential, retail park, hotel and office development on Nairobi’s Thika Superhighway. The system enables Garden City to capitalise on Kenya’s exceptional solar resource, while also providing shaded parking for customers. Once construction of the carport was completed, the solar panels were installed in a couple of weeks, and cost savings were realised as soon as the system was connected to the grid last month.

The solar carport system has been designed using solar hybrid technology, a highly innovative energy solution and one of only a handful globally. During daylight hours, the solar carport generates solar electricity, and should the grid go down, the hybrid technology enables the carport to run in tandem with the diesel generator. When darkness falls, the Mall can switch to either grid energy, or a backup diesel generator if the grid is down. Reducing reliance on the grid and costly diesel enables significant cost savings at a time of high energy prices in Kenya.

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