For a country which can only supply electricity to about 10 percent of its citizens, Kenya has been able to do rather well as far as using renewable energy for its power. Some 90 percent of Kenya’s electricity is produced with hydroelectric dams, which are susceptible to droughts, and its current geothermal plants only produce about 200 MW of power. But a new $1.3 billion, 280 MW, geothermal project could help the country meet more of the growing demand for electricity.
Kenya’s geothermal potential is quite high – 7000 MW according to the government – but the expected increase in energy consumption is also high. The country’s current peak power demand is around 1,070 MW, with a current generation capacity of 1,160 megawatts, and the projections are for a rise in demand of 10 percent each year over the next twenty.
The newest plant will be the biggest geothermal plant in the country, and is a joint venture between Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) and the engineering firm of Sinclair Knight Merz. Planned capacity of 280 MW will come from four geothermal generators, and the plant is expected to be online by 2013.
“The scope of the project includes four 70 MW power generating machines, steam-gathering systems, substations, transmission lines and other infrastructure.” – KenGen
Funding for the project will come from both the Kenyan government and international lenders, such as the World Bank, Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), European Investment Bank (EIB), French Development Agency, and the German Development Bank (KfW).
Another geothermal power company, Ormat Technologies, has also recently committed to more than doubling the capacity of Kenya’s Olkaria III geothermal plant, which currently supplies 48 MW of power. Olkaria III is a ten year old plant, and the newest expansion plan calls for an increase in capacity to 100 MW.