Solar Power Boosts Commercial Dairy Farmer’s Production

A solar installer fixing a solar panel on top of the roof at Kirwa’s farm.Picture:Fred Deya
A solar installer fixing a solar panel on top of the roof at Kirwa’s farm.Picture:Fred Deya

Farming is no longer a low-budget venture as used to be the case going by Willy Kirwa’s commercial dairy project.

In order to boost production, Kirwa has pumped KSh4 million with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) investing in a modern solar power system to help in lighting and processing the precious liquid.

His 50-acre farm is in Kapseret Village in Eldoret Sub-County of Uasin Gishu, where dairy farming is popular from peasant level all the way to the large scale level.

Kirwa discovered that he needed a conducive environment with enough lighting to boost his milk production. Large scale milk production also needs processing machinery akin to solar powered milk cooling machine.

The dairy farmer has installed a solar power system at his farm most specifically to power milk cooling machine and light the cattle shed for milking.

In the middle of his farm rests a spacious cattle shed that holds 60 dairy cattle, 30 lactating cows ready for milking.

Inside the compound there is a building that shelters a milk-cooling facility that is directly connected to solar power source by power cables.

Inside the cattle pen, some power bulbs are visible which are turned on whenever there is need for more light.

“I preferred using solar energy because it is natural and cheap to manage as compared to electricity that needs a lot of money to install in addition to the high monthly bills,” says Kirwa.

He has over time installed 30 pieces of solar panel with different capacity outputs (100 watts and 200 watts).

After consultation about the mega project, Kirwa met a team from USAID who visited his farm before installing the clean energy plant.

His neighbours in Kapseret confirmed that the project is lucrative and cheap in the long run even though the installation cost was expensive. However, they are convinced that it would be worth it because of the lack of monthly power bills.

Asked why he opted for solar energy, Kirwa pointed at his healthy hybrid cows saying: “I decided to go solar because I have many dairy cattle and the milk production is high.” He adds: “I had to acquire milk processing machinery, which includes a milk cooling machine. I preferred to put up solar to run the machine because it is easy to handle and maintain which is also cheap.”

The solar power also lights cattle sheds that are turned on during milking very early in the morning and late in the evening after the sun has set.

According to the dairy farmer, light is preferred during milking in order to boost milk production in the sense that the strong light attracts flies that could sack cows during the milking process that make them restless.

Light also gives the cattle a warm and friendly environment making them relax.

The middle aged farmer says that he started dairy farming over ten years ago, an exercise that has paid dividends. Currently his dairy milk production stands at 600 litres per day. He sells his produce locally and to the Rift Valley region milk suppliers. A litre of milk sells at KSh30.

Apart from lighting the cattle shed, the renewable energy is also used in lighting his main house.

The project is a success, and Kirwa is seriously planning to expand the solar plant for other domestic use. If he adds more panels, he will be able to start other parallel businesses like charging mobile phones for his neighbours at a fee.

Kirwa’s home is among places in Kenya that have taken the path of meeting the seventh of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that credits assurance of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Kirwa’s solar panels are connected in a way that they are easily hit directly by the sun (Photovoltaic), converting the sun’s rays into electricity.

Solar panels on his roof are directly connected to power storage solar batteries with power inverters that convert the direct current (DC) power generated by solar panels to alternating current (AC) that is used on the grid.

According to a recent report by United Nation Environmental Program (UNEP) entitled Green Finance and Non-G20 Development Countries, solar energy is cost-effective and has promoted rapid mobile banking installation to Kenya’s villages. Safaricom has been at the forefront to engage with solar panel companies like M-Kopa that offers pay- as- you go solar home systems.

UNEP’s tenth report revealed that $286 billion was totally spent in renewable energy in 2015, constituting three percent increase compared to what was spent back in 2011.

According to World Bank, households especially in the rural areas are spending less on solar energy than they would on kerosene or electricity every two years. This estimates a full green energy revolution I the entire country in the near future.

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