Kenya on the cusp of a geothermal energy boom
Jaindi Kisero, November 22, 2010 (The East African)
"Geothermal electricity generation in Kenya started in 1956…The wells…were later abandoned…It was not until 1985 that Olkaria I (45MW) was commissioned.Drilling continued in the Olkarai II steam field, with 30 wells being drilled by 1991…In 1992…donors pulled out and no work was undertaken until 1999…Olakaria 119(70MW) was commissioned in 2003…Right now drilling is going on in Olkaria IV, that is planned for 2012.
"The dominance of Chinese firms in exploration of geothermal energy in Kenya is set to end as East Africa’s largest economy rolls out an aggressive programme to acquire its own rigs and to develop expertise…Kenya has become a leading global hotspot in geothermal exploration as the government continues to invest heavily in clean energy to both reduce its over-reliance on hydroelectricity and diesel powered plants."
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"Chinese companies in the past five years have won most geothermal drilling contracts, which are worth millions of dollars, locking out European companies from the business…The East African Rift Valley system is estimated to hold the potential of produce 7,000MW of electricity, with Kenya accounting for 1,200 MW, which is equivalent to the power the country produces annually.
"In the initial stages, most of the geothermal drilling activity in Kenya was done by Nabor’s International, a French company, and Foraky Foraminus of Belgium. The Europeans have since been supplanted by the Chinese… But… Three factors drive geothermal drilling costs high. First…lack of engineering infrastructure in Africa…International drilling companies also charge resource and development risk…The third factor is the large expatriate component of the workforce…"
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"Kenya has identified geothermal energy as its most economical generation option, compared with coal and nuclear energy…Currently, it is estimated that the annual fixed cost of generating nuclear power in Kenya is around 0.0759 US cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 0.0708 for geothermal…The nuclear option is rendered more unattractive by political and environmental concerns for safety, security and safeguards…Although the fuel is avaliable, enrichment, waste disposal and high decommissioning costs are major concerns…From a purely cost standpoint, coal at 0.407 US cents per kilowat hour, offers the cheapest option for Kenya. But the coal generation method is perceived to make a larger contribution to air pollution than other fossil fuels combined.
"Currently, there is a total of 202 MW installed geothermal generating capacity in Kenya — 150MW by the state-controlled company, KenGen, 52MW by independent power producers OrPower, and 4MW by flower exporting farm Oserian, which uses geothermal energy to heat 50 hectares of green houses at its expansive flower farms in Naivasha. Geothermal activities in Kenya are concentrated in the East African Rift Valley. Over 14 geothermal prospecting sites have ben identified. Studies carried out in these sites indicate that a potential of between 7,000 MW and 10,000 MW exist…"