A few days ago I was on a panel listening to some experts explain the uniqueness of the solar water heating systems they were offering; how robust they would be, the warranties contained, the appropriateness of their system for tropical Nairobi over colder Europe ones, and the payback period of solar installations.
They went on to pitch how home residents would be able to have warm showers in the morning, as the systems would retain heat overnight from the sun the previous day.
It would be reasonably warm, and enough for all occupants to use. These solar systems could also be connected with the kitchen systems so that hot water could be used to wash dishes.
Each of the teams tried to get an advantage on each other, explaining how their superior systems would work with the erratic supply of water in our cities, or with the different qualities of water in our homes, which was sometimes topped up by water bowsers or boreholes.
The rush stems from the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations 2012 which required that buildings that use more than 100 litres of hot water per day should install and use solar heating systems by 25th May 2017.
This includes domestic residential premises, educational and health institutions, hotels, restaurants, and laundries, in all local authority areas in Kenya.
Owners who don’t comply may be liable for a fine of up to Sh1 million.
The systems pitched ranged in prices from Sh100,000 to Sh300,000. This was the cost to install a system in every for every apartment, with a recommendation of a 200-litre system for a 3 bedroom apartment.
The pricier ones had more features - automatic switches linked to thermostats, smart switches that would boost water to ensure it was always a certain temperature, and others you could also program to shut off when on holiday.
The solar water heating systems are meant to improve on the efficiency of instant heating showers and reduce by half the cost of heating water in a house.
But regardless of the cost, all solar water heating brings a change of life; you need to run a shower for a few minutes, so there is a need to fill a bucket before you get hot water to use.
INDEPENDENT POWER PRODUCER
At the session, there was also a palpable sense of frustration with Kenya Power. Some residents were so frustrated with power blackouts that they were ready to invest in a solar system that would provide not just hot water, but also power a TV and fridge, and light a house in the evening to allow children to read and do their homework.
Germany was also cited as a world leader for solar power generation. But there, homeowners are able to generate solar energy to sell to the electricity grid in the daytime, and then buy back what they need at night.
But this is Kenya, and one Strathmore professor said that, while it was true that anyone with solar panel on his or her roof could be an independent power producer, selling to KPLC is very complicated.
At another Strathmore University debate on a proposed Lamu coal plant late last year, one panellist said that solar energy already creates more jobs than coal globally, despite what US President Donald Trump wishes.
Did you know that Buru Buru Phase 5, built in the 1970s, had solar systems installed which still work? Kenya is on that path already. Are you solar ready?