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Innovative solar energy technology for Kenyan tea industry

Kenya is the third largest producer of tea globally and the largest in Africa. This is an industry of critical importance to the Kenyan economy with an annual turnover of KES 129 Billion (£992M). The drying of the tea leaves is an energy intensive process raising important energetic and ecological issue to the country as most of the energy supply comes from unsustainable firewood.

A 2018 logging ban from the Kenyan government is forcing the tea industry to look for other energy sources in the near future. To avoid an intensive use of fossil fuel the InSET4KTI project aim to develop a cost-effective drying process through the use of the widely abundant solar energy of Kenya.

InSET4KTI will provide a technologically innovative solar plant prototype through the use of directly absorbing nanofluid coupled with a three-stage optical concentrator offering a most cost-effective solution through completely removing selectively coated receiver used in conventional solar collectors. The project technology will also feature higher optical (>85%), thermal efficiency (by reducing radiative loss by 90%) and compactness by up to 4 times.

The project is a collaboration between Brunel University London, one Kenyan industry (Eenovator) and two UK industries (EnSO and CoolSky). The project will be carried out with the assistance of KTDA (KenyanTea Development Agency) one of the major Kenyan tea producer. The first prototype will be installed at the Kagwe Tea Factory one of KDTA’s plant.

Project outcomes will be applicable on a large scale as all the 67 KTDA’s tea factory could benefit from it, thus providing an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to firewood and fossil fuels. As shareholders of KTDA, this solution would also be economically beneficial to the 560,000 smallholders farmers producing the tea leaves.

Photo 1. A lady tea farmer who supplies her fresh harvest to the tea factory where our demo plant will be set up. She is a stakeholder.

kenya tea

Photo 2. The project team visits the tea factory. kenya tea 2

field trip

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Harjit Singh
Dr Harjit Singh - Dr Singh received his BEng, and MEng (IIT Roorkee, India) with specialisation in Mechanical and Thermal Engineering disciplines and PhD (University of Ulster, UK) in experimental evaluation of natural convective heat transfer in CPC solar collector cavities. He was a Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy at the Kingston University London (2009-2011) prior to accepting the current position. He has six years of research experience on various EU, EPSRC, the Carbon Trust and Defra funded projects. Dr Singh was previously a Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at National Institute of Technology Hamirpur, India. His research focuses on various aspects of solar energy systems, energy use in built environment. Topics currently being researched into include design and development of novel concentrating solar collectors, vacuum insulation panels and building retrofit for improved energy efficiency.

Related Research Group(s)

food preservation

Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains - Energy demand and GHG emissions reduction in all stages of the food chain; optimal ways the food chain can utilise different energy sources and interact with the energy supply system; resource efficiency through intensification of food processing.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 13/10/2023