Some 120 Km North-West of Nairobi, a group of Kenyan engineers work tirelessly to drill as many wells as possible at the Olkaria Geothermal Plant. Located right in the central part of Kenya; a region considered as one of the most exciting geothermal prospects in the world, it is the first geothermal power plant in Africa. The facility is in Hell's Gate National Park on the eastern edge of the Eastern Rift Valley. At this rate the engineers are drilling more than forty wells in a year. Each well has the capacity to produce 18MW of energy annually.
According to a World Bank Report, Kenya is investing in 280 megawatts of geothermal energy as part of the accelerated green energy growth program. The rapid investments in geothermal power in recent years are increasingly paying dividends through the supply of reliable, low-cost clean energy to consumers. With the Kenyan government stepping up geothermal developments in new fields, run by the Geothermal Development Company, the cost of power to industrial and domestic consumers has fallen by over 30% since August 2014. Geothermal contribution to the national energy mix has increased to 51% following the commissioning of two more new plants, Olkaria 1 and Olkaria 4 in the rift valley with a capacity of 280 megawatts.
Olikara geothermal plant - courtesy Geosteam
With the support of the World Bank and other financiers, the Olkaria development has turned into the largest single geothermal investment project in the world. It is now the largest source of electricity in Kenya ahead of hydro which has been the chief source of power for Kenya for decades. The World Bank happens to be the largest development financier of geothermal power in Kenya since the 1970’s: funding feasibility studies, exploration, geothermal steam development and construction of power plants. The World Bank Group is supporting the government to generate more geothermal energy. This strategy focuses on overcoming poverty and increases electricity access to all consumers and enhances opportunities for growth and prosperity.
According to KenGen (Kenya Electricity Generating Company) officials, Kenya’s plan is to increase geothermal capacity by another 460 Megawatts by the year 2018, a strategy that will see Kenya reduce the country’s reliance on hydro power. These accelerated investments in Olkaria demonstrate the government’s resolve to increase the supply of clean energy, provide reliable power and lower the cost to domestic and industrial consumers - all aimed at improving the quality of people’s lives and reducing the cost of doing business for the private sector.
The country is setting an ambitious target of producing 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030; a target that if reached, will power millions of homes. Reports by the Geothermal Energy Association indicate that Kenya is on the right track to becoming a world leader with the completion of these planned projects.