Kenya Turns Old Batteries into Renewable Energy for Vital Services

Innovative Project Powers Schools, Hospitals with Repurposed Lithium Batteries

by Adenike Adeodun

In a pioneering move to address both the challenge of battery e-waste and the urgent need for clean energy, Kenya has embarked on an ambitious project in collaboration with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This initiative aims to repurpose second-life lithium batteries to power solar photovoltaic (PV) installations at educational institutions, healthcare centers, and hospitals across rural areas. The project is set to positively impact up to 160,000 rural Kenyans by providing them with reliable and clean electricity sources, marking a significant step towards environmental sustainability and energy accessibility.

The collaboration, supported by the IEC Global Impact Fund (IEC-GIF), focuses on transforming battery e-waste into valuable electronic resources. Over the next two years, the project will promote environmental innovation spearheaded by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), showcasing a commitment to circular economy principles and sustainable development.

Key stakeholders, including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the Kenya National Committee of the IEC, play crucial roles in ensuring the project’s success. The IEC, a global not-for-profit organization, coordinates the efforts of 30,000 experts from 174 countries, facilitating electricity access and certifying the safety, performance, and interoperability of electric and electronic devices and systems.

Differ Community Power (DCP), an international solar energy service provider, has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of utilizing second-life lithium batteries. Batteries are vital components of solar PV systems, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where they offer a solution to electricity access challenges. However, their high costs and maintenance complexities have led to significant waste, as most solar PV systems become inoperable within a few years without proper end-of-life management or repair.

This initiative seeks to address the problem by repurposing batteries, thereby extending the operational life of entire solar PV plants. The IEC-GIF’s support will enable DCP to produce second-life batteries for the rehabilitation of five solar PV installations, with an additional three facilities serving as a controlled study using new batteries. This innovative approach not only leverages existing resources but also sets a precedent for sustainable energy solutions.

The repurposed batteries will undergo rigorous safety and performance testing in accordance with international standards. Additionally, the project offers an opportunity to upskill local subcontractors in wiring regulations and commissioning procedures, aligning with international best practices. Real-time remote monitoring will provide valuable data for technical and economic feasibility analyses, further informing the project’s scalability and replicability.

Kjetil Roine, CEO of DCP, emphasizes the transformative potential of off-grid solar technologies for communities lacking electricity access. This project represents a sustainable method to reuse the natural resources in batteries without harming the environment, aligning with global efforts to manage battery e-waste. Both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) have initiated measures to improve the recycling and management of end-of-life solar panels and lithium batteries, highlighting the growing international focus on sustainable energy solutions and waste management.

As Kenya pioneers this innovative approach to renewable energy and environmental stewardship, the project serves as a model for other nations. By repurposing lithium batteries, Kenya not only addresses the challenge of battery e-waste but also takes a significant step towards achieving clean energy access for its rural population. This initiative underscores the importance of collaborative efforts, technological innovation, and sustainable practices in the global transition to renewable energy, setting a benchmark for the rest of the world to follow.

Source: ESI Africa

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