Kenya On Track to More Than Double Geothermal Power Production

Kenya is on course to becoming Africa’s biggest producer of geothermal energy, with plans underway to produce an extra 2000 MWs of power from steam in the next six years.

With the East African country total installed capacity from all sources now standing at 2,100 MWs, the country is planning on developing the additional 2000 MWs from the Baringo-Silai exploration location block, located in the northern part of Kenya’s Rift Valley with the support of German bank KFW Bank.

The block, which has an estimated potential of 3000 MWs of steam power, will be developed in two phases, with the first phase expected to yield 2,000 MWs, to be exploited with support of an 80 million euro (US$89.9 million) concessional loan from the German development bank.

Part of the money, according to state geothermal power company Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC) CEO David Ole Nchoe, will go to drilling of 15-20 exploration wells.

Chinese company Hong Kong Off-Shore Oil Services Ltd. (HOOSL) was awarded a contract to drill the wells by the government, and actual sinking of the wells is set to begin this month.

Preliminary works, beginning with construction of access roads in the semi-arid, remote region, have already commenced, according to Nchoe.

Kenya has an estimated capacity to produce 10,000 MWs of power from steam, according to GDC figures, and the state company has tripled production of energy from geothermal since 2009, from 167 MW to 544 MW presently.

The power has been generated in two blocks — Olkaria and Menengai in the central Rift Valley 120 km west of the capital, Nairobi.

“The injection of the additional 320 MW of green energy into Kenya’s power mix has reduced the cost of power by 22-35 percent for domestic and industrial consumers respectively,” Nchoe recently told a geothermal forum in Nairobi. 

Numerous exploration activities are being undertaken or being planned in 10 other blocks in the southern part of the Rift Valley near Tanzania.

According to Pavel Oimeke, head of renewable energy at the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC), the country industry regulator, Kenya was on course to making sure that 90 percent of its energy came from renewable sources. With its huge potential for geothermal, the country was making good progress to achieving production of 5,000 MWs of power, over 70 percent from renewable sources by 2030, when it hopes to move to a full middle income status.

“Our potential for geothermal is huge, and Kenya is proudly now one of the largest steam power producers in the world and leader in Africa; we will to continue exploiting this stable and reliable green resource to power our development needs,” Oimeke told Renewable Energy World.

Besides being a leader in production, the country has partnered with a local university to found the African Geothermal Centre of Excellence (AGCE) offering post-graduate training in the field to students from across the continent.

The Institute offers courses on geothermal technology, including drilling engineering, geosciences, reservoir engineering, environmental management, steam-field management, project management and power-plant engineering. All courses are aimed at building capacity for geothermal development in Africa. 

Other East and Horn-of-Africa countries that share the Great Rift Valley, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, are believed to have huge reservoirs of steam power, but exploitation has been slower than it has been in Kenya, and they have been sending numerous delegations to the country to study Kenya’s success story.

Lead image credit: pdh96 | Flickr


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Maina Waruru is a freelance journalist with an interest in science and climate change issues. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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