Kenya planning to extend geothermal by 4,000 MW until 2030

Alexander Richter 18 Nov 2009

Kenya is planning to expand the current geothermal capacity of the country of 167 MW by 4,000 MW until 2030.

According to a recent article by Bloomberg, “Kenya plans to boost geothermal generation capacity by 4,000 megawatts over the next two decades to ensure East Africa’s biggest economy has clean and reliable energy supplies, the Geothermal Development Co. said.

Three production sites at the Olkaria geothermal field, 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Nairobi, can now produce a combined 167 megawatts, against a national potential of 7,000 megawatts, said Silas Simiyu, chief executive officer of the state-run company that was set up in February.

“There is a political push in Kenya to produce electricity that is more affordable, reliable and from green energy,” Simiyu said in an interview in Nairobi, the capital, yesterday.

Funds from Kenya’s government, private investors and donors totaling about $16 billion will be required to exploit the potential of a fault line in the earth’s surface that runs through Kenya over the next 20 years, he said. Kenya introduced power-rationing between August and October after drought cut output at hydro-electric plants, which account for more than 70 percent of installed power capacity.

Industries were faced with daily power cuts while electricity bills rose as emergency, diesel-powered generators were deployed, damping economic growth.

Geothermal energy comes from natural formations where hot rocks underground boil water and the steam is used to power turbines, said Simiyu. The Great Rift Valley region, where two tectonic plants in the earth’s surface are separating, has sizeable untapped geothermal energy reserves, he said.

Foreign Aid: The government is next looking to develop two more sites in Olkaria, with the combined potential to produce an estimated 350 megawatts, with $850 million in grants and loans promised by foreign aid agencies. Of the three sites currently operating, two are managed by Kenya Electricity Generating Co. and one by Israel’s Ormat Industries Ltd.

Two drilling rigs hired from Great Wall Drilling Co., a unit of Beijing-based China National Petroleum Corp., are running now in a plan to dig as many as 50 wells in the area by year-end, he said.

Kenya plans to purchase its own drilling equipment with 60 million euros ($90 million) pledged by France as it scales-up efforts to exploit geothermal energy, said Simiyu.

The country will require as much as $5 billion in investments to expand power generation capacity as demand is expected to almost double to 2,029 megawatts by 2014, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said on Oct. 22.

Kenya aims to raise the proportion of citizens with electricity connections to 40 percent in 2020 from as low as about 4 percent in 2004, according to an Energy Ministry report published last month.”

Source: Bloomberg