KENYA – Unilever Tea Kenya has commissioned a 619 kWp solar plant in its Kericho tea factory as part of the firms ambitions of exploring renewable energy solutions and implement energy cost savings initiatives.

The tea processor partnered with CrossBoundary Energy in the project, making it the first commercial and industrial power purchase agreement (ppa) for Unilever in Sub-Saharan Africa, reports the Star.

With the addition of solar PV to its existing hydroelectric and biomass resources, over 90 per cent of Unilever Tea Kenya’s energy needs will now be met with clean energy.

Sylvia Ten Den, the company’s managing director described the new investment as a sustainable and cost-free model of cutting costs while cleaning the environment.

“Installation of solar power at our Kericho operations delivers on our commitment to reduce our environmental footprint. 

By reducing the use of energy, raw materials and natural resources, we create efficiencies and cut costs, while becoming less exposed to price volatility. Besides being more cost-efficient this will save 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 15 years

This defines our sustainable living plan on cutting costs, reducing health risks and building trust with our stakeholders,” she said.

The project will be implemented via an innovative 15-year power purchase agreement with CrossBoundary Energy handling maintenance, monitoring and insurance as well as future plant upgrades.

CrossBoundary’s Head of Business Development Femi Fadugba said cheaper energy meant Unilever will enjoy a competitive edge in the global market.

“Access to reliable, affordable energy is one of the biggest constraints to business growth in Africa. CrossBoundary is supporting the continent’s leading brands like Unilever to adopt solar solutions across their operations in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Femi said.

The solar PV panels are installed on a rotating mounting structure that tracks the movement of the sun throughout the day, increasing the plant’s power output by 20 percent and brings the company closer to its goal of sourcing 100% of total renewables for its operations.

“We intend to be the first of Unilever’s facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa to be operating on 100pc renewable energy by 2030,” said Nicholaos Yiannakis, former Managing Director, during signing of the deal in March last year.

The project is the largest commercial single-axis tracking installation in Kenya to date.