Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Hot rocks: Kenya taps geothermal heat to boost power
Hell'S Gate, Kenya (AFP) March 16, 2016

Zebra and antelope look on as clouds of white steam twist into the air at Hell's Gate, where Kenya's dream of providing cheap, renewable electricity is becoming a reality.

Just over a third of the 45 million people who live in Kenya have electricity, and power cuts are frequent across the network, even in the capital Nairobi.

But Africa's Great Rift Valley -- where the continent is gradually tearing apart and the earth's crust thins -- runs through the heart of Kenya, and access to hot rocks below the surface has put a wealth of geothermal power at its fingertips.

"Geothermal energy can be found probably anywhere in the world. But what makes it most accessible here is the fact that the Earth's crust is very thin, so the steam comes out very easily and hence you can use it for electricity generation," says Boniface Kipkorir, an engineer working at the Olkaria plant in Hell's Gate National Park.

"Geothermal energy is clean, green, its carbon footprint on the environment is minimal," said Kipkorir, who works for KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company), the country's largest electricity producer.

Since geothermal energy production began in Kenya in the 1980s, the technology has evolved to help make it a cleaner process.

The region's underground is a geothermal hotspot, harbouring hot water sources and steam at 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit) that is piped up to the surface from depths of up to 2,000 metres (6,500 feet).

When the mix reaches the plant, the steam powers a generator turbine.

Boosting electricity is a key priority for the Kenyan government, which is aiming to triple production capacity by 2020 to compensate for demand that is forecast to increase by 11 percent annually.

- A world leader? -

The potential is immense. There are more than a dozen possible sites scattered throughout the Rift Valley which have an estimated potential of 10,000 megawatts (MW) -- four times the country's current production capacity.

Development of those sites could make Kenya one of the world leaders in geothermal energy.

Last year, with the installation two new production units at Olkaria, Kenya more than doubled its production of geothermal energy to 609 MW.

That makes it the world's eighth-largest geothermal producer, accounting for some five percent of global output.

Olkaria, which lies 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Nairobi, is the largest geothermal plant in Africa. Surrounded by wooded hills which are home to giraffe and antelope, the plant has a network of pipes that run deep underground.

During its construction, the animals were scared off, but soon found elsewhere to roam inside the national park, which covers 68 square kilometres (26 square miles). Now buffalo, zebra and antelope come close to the station, apparently unconcerned by its presence.

Steam rises into the air, but it is water vapour -- there is no pollution or stench like that of a coal-fired station.

- Geothermal outpacing hydropower -

For many years, Kenya has relied on its hydroelectric network, which last year produced 820 MW. But recurring droughts have rendered this source of energy much less reliable than before.

"When we looked at the hydro, we realised it's very good, because it's a very cheap source of power -- but it is also affected by drought," says Albert Mugo, KenGen's chief executive.

"In the last two years, we've had very bad drought and the levels of the reservoirs became very low. When that happens, you have to reduce the amount of electricity that you can generate."

"It is not the same with geothermal," Mugo says. "Once you have your wells and you start producing, the plants run on a 24 hours basis. It's a very reliable source of supply."

The growth of geothermal energy is expected to continue, while hydropower production levels out.

"There is more geothermal that is being installed and very little of hydro," he says.

"So looking at the strategy for Kenya for development... we see a lot of geothermal coming in," he says.

According to its "Vision 2030" plan, under which this East African nation will become a middle-income country by 2030, the Kenyan government sees electricity production capacity reaching 17,500 MW, compared to 2,200 MW in 2015.

The aim is for 5,000 MW of that figure to come from geothermal energy, which would make it the country's primary energy source in a move that could help reduce costs to customers.


Related Links
Powering The World in the 21st Century at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Creation of Jupiter interior, a step towards room temp superconductivity
Osaka, Japan (SPX) Dec 21, 2015
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and a major component of stars such as the Sun, as well as gas-giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. In recent years, hydrogen's behavior at high temperature and high pressure has been in the realm of interest not only for planetary science, but also for fields such as materials science for the purpose of achieving a hydrogen energy soci ... read more

Permanent Lunar Colony Possible in 10 Years

China to use data relay satellite to explore dark side of moon

NASA May Return to Moon, But Only After Cutting Off ISS

Lunar love: When science meets artistry

How the ExoMars mission could sniff out life on Mars

ExoMars on its way to solve the Red Planet's mysteries

Europe's New Mars Mission Bringing NASA Radios Along

Close comet flyby threw Mars' magnetic field into chaos

Broomstick flying or red-light ping-pong? Gadgets at German fair

Space travel rules needed within 5 years: UN

Jacobs Joins Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Mining Everyday Technologies to Anticipate Possibilities

China to establish first commercial rocket launch company

China's ambition after space station

Sky is the limit for China's national strategy

Aim Higher: China Plans to Send Rover to Mars in 2020

Grandpa astronaut to break Scott Kelly's space record

Space station astronauts ham it up to inspire student scientists

Roscosmos-NASA Contract on US Astronauts Delivery to ISS on Restructuring

NASA station leads way for improved measurements of Earth orientation, shape

ILS and INMARSAT Agree To Future Proton Launch

Soyuz 2-1B Carrier Rocket Launched From Baikonur

Launch of Dragon Spacecraft to ISS Postponed Until April

ISRO launches PSLV C32, India's sixth navigation satellite

VLA observes earliest stages of planet formation

NASA's K2 mission: Kepler second chance to shine

Star eruptions create and scatter elements with Earth-like composition

Astronomers discover two new 'hot Jupiter' exoplanets

Virtual reality girds for test in marketplace

British mathematician solves Fermat's Last Theorem

Outsourcing crystal space

Unique optical trapping system offers way to launch high-power laser light

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.