Kenya to match Italy, join geothermal big boys club

Kenya will this year match Italy in ranking of the world’s largest geothermal powerhouses when the 83-megawatt Olkaria plant is completed.

The country will also join the top five geothermal energy producers once KenGen’s public private partnership plan on the Olkaria VI plant is done with an additional 140MW power which will see Kenya’s capacity climb to 1,080MW in the next three years.

Four companies have since been shortlisted to work on the project, which will place Kenya above New Zealand’s 1,005MW installed capacity and at fifth position behind Turkey, Philippines, Indonesia and the United States which tops the big boy’s roost.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said the 83.3MW Olkaria I Unit six power plant is expected to be ready any time after the first half of the year when it will be commissioned and will bring the installed capacity to 944MW, at par with Italy.

“We have that plant almost ready with several tests still to be done and this year it will be complete as we scale up our portfolio of renewable energy. We have a geothermal energy potential of 10,000MW along the Rift Valley with the resource being harnessed in 23 sites,” Mr Keter told the Nation after leading a Kenyan team to Djibuti for geothermal well drilling agreement signing.

Another contract

KenGen is also expected to redevelop Olkaria I to increase the plant’s installed capacity from the current 45MW to 50MW and extend the life of the power plant by 25 years. Geothermal is now Kenya’s top source of electricity, contributing up to 50 percent of the energy consumed every month followed by hydro which supplies between 30 and 36 percent to the grid.

The energy source is stable and helps to beef up the country’s baseload, allowing for addition of other intermittent sources such as solar and wind into the generation mix. It is also relatively cheaper compared to other sources like wind, solar and imports with the weighted average cost per unit ranging between Sh9 and Sh10 per unit.
The US still retains the world’s largest geothermal generating capacity with 3,695MW followed by Indonesia (2,133) and Philippines (1,918 and Turkey (1,576 MW). Others in the top 10 list include New Zealand (1005 MW), Mexico (963 MW), Italy (944 MW) and technological heavyweight Japan which has been ranked 10th with an output of 603 MW according to ThinkGeoEnergy Researchers.

In Africa where Kenya is ranked top, Ethiopia is the only other country with developed geothermal energy (7 MW) and it set to upscale after signing Sh13.4billion drilling deals with KenGen in February and October 2019.

Kenya also plans to scale up its use for steam through its state-owned Geothermal Development Company (GDC) which will diversify the use of hot steam to pasteurise milk, heat greenhouses and fishponds as well as use in laundromat.

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