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Kenya Setting Up Rural Solar

FILE: A guard stands near a solar panel at the Safaricom Base Transmission Station (BTS) in Kajiado, 100 km south of Nairobi, Oct. 1, 2009. The transmission station, which is powered through the use of solar and wind mills, provides alternative energy for telecommunications.

Kenya is constructing 136 solar powered mini-grids in far-flung areas not properly served by the national electricity grid, the country's energy minister said on Monday.

"The national electricity grid is yet to reach some parts of the country," Energy Minister Davis Chirchir said at a World Bank-sponsored meeting on solar energy.

The new solar mini-grids are part of a $150 million program funded by the World Bank.

Powered by solar panels, the grids use batteries and backup generators to provide electricity independent of the main national grids.

The government has secured funding from development partners to shift the diesel-powered units to cheaper and sustainable sources, Chirchir said.

Due to abundance of sunshine, solar has the capacity to connect 380 million people in sub-Saharan Africa to electricity by 2030, the World Bank said.

Although Kenya generates a large chunk of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower and geothermal, it runs dozens of diesel-powered generation units following years of drought.