In East Africa, Kenya is currently utilising temporary geothermal wellheads as another source of clean energy, which feeds an extra 56MW to the national grid.
Engineers at Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen), highlights 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.
Chief engineer Johnson Ndege, who is in charge of the project said, “We are taking advantage of these single wells to generate power using the steam, which would otherwise have gone to waste while the main plant is being constructed.
“The wellhead technique was just but an experiment and it turned out to be a very good way of generating power from wells that would otherwise have remained idle for years.”
A sixth and seventh geothermal power plant is planned, located at Olkaria site in the Rift Valley, expected to be complete by 2018.
So far, the KenGen has mounted 11 wellheads which accounts for 56.1MW of the country’s total geothermal energy production.
According to IPS, experts revealed that there are four wellheads under construction with a potential of producing a total of 20MW more of electricity over the next few months.
KenGen’s CEO and managing director, Albert Mugo, stated that the company is determined to set new heights with this project.
“We do not want to leave anything to chances, and that is why we have started generating electric energy using wellheads as we keep developing more and more geothermal power plants,” he said.
The magnitude of this geothermal project has placed Kenya in the eighth position globally amongst the suppliers of geothermal energy, with a total installed capacity of 585MW.
This represents 5% of the total global geothermal production, as rated by the World Geothermal Council.
By investing in the five major geothermal plants namely Olkaria I, II, III, IV and V, with supplementation from smaller sources such as the wellheads, this has placed Kenya on the global map of geothermal power production.
Beating hydro sources
Mugo noted that geothermal energy sources in Kenya have already surpassed hydro sources following the commissioning of the latest Olkaria IV and IV, with a combined capacity of 280MW.
President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the power plants in October 2014.
This makes geothermal to account for 51% of the national power mix in Kenya, placing hydroelectric in second place accounting for 40%, which was the leading source of energy a few months ago. Other sources including thermal and wind account for the remaining 9%.
“The beauty is that geothermal plants typically achieve over 90% efficiency, which is much better than hydro sources that run at around 70%efficiency at the best,” Mugo said.
Founder of Parliamentary Network on Renewable Energy and Climate Change, Dr Wilbur Ottichilo, commented: “As leaders, we shall do our best to support efforts geared towards tapping renewable energy as a way of adapting and mitigating the impacts of climate change.”