Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Energy tranisitions in Kenya's tea sector


Biology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Life Sciences


Kenyas tea sector provides livelihoods for more than 500,000 farmers but energy access in the region remains limited. Clean, affordable distributed energy systems could transform the tea-growing regions by lowering tea production costs and increasing farmer profits. On-site generation could power tea factories and enhance grid stability by reducing electricity draw from the grid and, in some cases, even exporting surplus electricity. Wind powers potential in Kenyas tea regions is unknown. A pre-feasibility study using the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) dataset revealed that 29% of Kenyas tea farms have wind resources that could be suitable for development. There were more moderate-rated tea farms west of the Rift Valley, but tea farms east of the Rift Valley had greater wind resources. Economic analysis using RETScreen found that wind power in the eastern region had a positive net present value (NPV) under a wide range of assumptions. In the base case, a 750 kW wind turbine with a capital cost of US$1.5 million (US$1,984/kW) at the most suitable tea farm had an NPV of US$515,779. Tea farms west of the Rift Valley had negative NPVs in the base case but turned positive under more optimistic assumptions. SWERA data are conservative and may underestimate the wind resource at some locations. End use demand in the tea sector is driving the transition to distributed, renewable energy in Kenyas tea growing regions. Whether this development can catalyze a positive feedback loop with spillover benefits to energy-poor rural communities remains to be seen.

Conference Name

International Sustainable Development Research Conference

Conference Location

Cape Town, South Africa

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