The reality is that we really have all we need to thrive on planet earth; we just have to make effective use of it. Isn’t it amazing how nature not only gives us food, water, sunlight, and resources to build shelter, but also offers such a variety of renewable sources of energy?
While solar and wind are among the better-known sources, a source that may not be as obvious yet has boundless potential is geothermal energy.
At KenGen, we recognized the immense importance of geothermal power to the development of a sustainable energy sector both in Kenya and the world. Geothermal usage is dynamic with a tremendous positive effect on communities and economies. We are tapping this potential and can’t wait to develop it even further across Africa.
What Is Geothermal Energy?
First used as far back as 1904, geothermal energy takes advantage of the heat that comes from the sub-surface of the earth to produce power. This heat is found within rocks and liquids beneath the crust of the earth. It is held in the earth’s magma — the hot molten rock deep inside our planet. To harness power, deep wells are dug into underground reservoirs containing steam and hot water. This is then used to drive turbines that are connected to generators, which produce electricity.
A geothermal pump system can take water from subterranean depths and be used together with the consistent temperatures of the earth’s upper surface to heat homes in winter, extract heat from buildings while transferring it to the ground in the summer, and to grow plants in greenhouses. There are cities in the United States that pipe geothermal water beneath road surfaces to melt snow.
There are three types of geothermal powerplants:
• Dry steam — This is the oldest type of technology in which steam is extracted from fractures in the ground and used to drive turbines.
• Flash plants — Deep, high-pressure hot water is pulled into cooler, low-pressure water.
• Binary plants — With this technology, hot water and a secondary fluid with a lower boiling point are pumped past each other, causing the secondary fluid to vaporize and drive the turbines.
Geothermal energy is used in more than 20 countries, with the technology around it evolving rapidly. It is a sustainable source of energy and, unlike solar and wind energy, it is not affected by the vagaries of weather. Currently, Kenya is the seventh-largest geothermal power producer in the world and we are proud to have several exciting geothermal projects in the pipeline.
Putting Kenya on the Sustainable Power Map
Kenya has a population of 47.6 million people and an installed capacity of 2,892 megawatts of power. Of this, KenGen’s total installed capacity is 1,803 megawatts with an installed geothermal capacity of 705.5 megawatts. Kenya has several geothermal prospects with up to a potential of 10,000 megawatts. Of all the sustainable energy sources in the country, 45% is from geothermal, 35% from hydro, 13% from wind, and 2% is sourced from solar.
KenGen is currently developing various geothermal projects in Olkaria and Eburru. Olkaria is a 2,004-square kilometer prospect that already has over 310 wells drilled with three deep drilling rigs. It has a capacity of 705.5 megawatts and is home to the only geothermal spa in Africa. Eburru currently has six geothermal wells.
KenGen has taken a firm stance on the importance of environmental conservation and is advocating the use of renewable energy. Our goal is to provide safe, clean power for generations to come, and our geothermal energy projects are part of our sustainability effort. Kenya has tremendous potential in the geothermal energy sphere, and KenGen is using this wonderful resource to make a positive impact on local communities while also helping to tackle climate change and foster sustainability. The energy industry needs to adapt in order to survive and thrive, with great moral responsibility to humanity. We are deeply committed to doing all in our power to make the widespread use of renewable energy a reality from one generation to the other.
Written by Rebecca Miano, CEO and MD Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen)
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