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East Africa sees geothermal growth potential

In East Africa, stats have shown that Kenya has almost doubled its generation exports to Tanzania and Uganda, from 26.9 million kWh in 2014 to 46.6 million kWh in 2015. This jump has been attributed to the country’s 280MW of geothermal power that was added to the grid in Q2 2014, SeeNews reported.

Abundant geothermal resources

[quote]Last week, US firm Ormat Technologies Inc, said that it had expanded the capacity of its Olkaria geothermal plants in Kenya to a total of 139MW, enough to power 250,000 local sized households per year, SeeNews reported.

According to media, the fourth plant at the Olkaria III complex, a 29MW facility, is now in commercial operation.

In October 2015, ESI reported that the east African country was using temporary geothermal wellheads as another source of clean energy, which has the capacity to feed an extra 56MW to the national grid.

Engineers at Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen), highlighted at the time that it could take a number of years to construct a single geothermal power plant, as it has to be fed by steam from several wells, which are often drilled and left open for years awaiting completion of the main plant, reports IPS.

Geothermal accounts for 51% of the national power mix in Kenya, placing hydroelectric in second place accounting for 40%, which was the leading source of energy  in early 2015. Other sources including thermal and wind account for the remaining 9%.

Tanzania driving geothermal generation

Earlier this month, ESI reported that Sospeter Muhongo, minister of energy and minerals, had called for the Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC) to begin drilling three holes in the Lake Ngozi area.

The minister said: “… we do not have even 1MW from this source, which is unacceptable to our citizens.

“We cannot continue waiting due to the elevated shortage of power the country experiences – while Tanzania is among countries whereby the Rift Valley coverers [a] huge area compared to other countries within a region.”

Business Week reported at the time that in 2015, TGDC general manager Boniface Njobe said Tanzania had identified 50 potential areas across the country where 5,000MW of geothermal power could be produced.

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.