Nairobi, Kenya — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 10 November 2011 – The government of Kenya will spend more than US$1.4 billion over two years to construct a 280 megawatt (MW) geothermal power complex in Olkaria, in what has been billed as the largest single, one-off geothermal project in the world.
Citing the “Nairobi Star,” allAfrica.com reports that the project will consist of two power plants of 140MW each which should be up and running by February 2014. The project will more than double the country’s geothermal capacity from the current 200MW to 480MW.
Electricity generator KenGen says the project will increase Kenya’s electricity reserves by 30%, which will lead to drastic cuts in power rationing. The completion of the ambitious project is also expected to give electricity consumers a reprieve in terms of their monthly power bills, as it will reduce reliance on hydro power which is dependent on the weather patterns.
KenGen managing director Eddie Njoroge says the recent drought in Kenya has meant that 62% of hydro capacity is not available at the moment, partly explaining why the cost of electricity has almost tripled in the last few months. “The situation has been compounded by fluctuating global oil prices which have resulted in skyrocketing power production costs that have driven up the cost of electricity,” Njoroge added.
The new power plants will also help to partly eliminate use of expensive emergency power from diesel generators. “The long term cost of geothermal is low in comparison with other sources of electricity like thermal, hydro and wind,” KenGen stressed.
It was announced earlier this week that a contract had been signed with a consortium of Japanese and South Korean companies to undertake the development of the project. While Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corporation will supervise the entire implementation of the project, Hyundai Engineering and Construction will supply the steam generators.
With a growing economy, the demand for power in Kenya has been rising by an average 8% every year. KenGen estimates that 800MW of energy is needed every year in the country, and this will most likely come from geothermal sources.
Kenya currently has around 1,600MW of installed power capacity, but it is estimated that demand will pick up to 15, 000MW by 2018. Out of this, 4, 700MW will be generated from geothermal sources. The Rift Valley is estimated to have a potential of 7, 000MW of geothermal power, says the newspaper.