Geothermal Energy in Kenya

Kenya is one of the leading developers of Geothermal Energy in the world and they are a great example for other countries across Africa. Most of Kenya’s Geothermal Energy has been high enthalpy resources, but additional development opportunities exist by widening the scope to incorporate low and medium enthalpy resources. Well experienced local geoscientists, engineers, drillers, suppliers, and contractors are available to continue the ramp-up of Geothermal Energy developments to increase the supply of electricity to the country and the regional grids. Clean, economic, environmentally sustainable renewable energy is possible from existing domestic resources.

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  • Kenya is the eighth largest producer of geothermal energy in the world, behind nations such as the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey and New Zealand, but significant opportunities exist to increase this production, including the wider use of low and medium enthalpy resources not just high enthalpy resources;
  • Rifting activity in the Kenya Rift began about 30 million years ago with uplift in the Lake Turkana area and then migrated southward being more intense about 14 million years ago. During the last 2 million years ago, volcanic activities became more intense within the axis of the rift due to extension. During this time, large shield volcanoes, most of which are geothermal prospects, developed in the axis of the rift;
  • Exploration for geothermal resources in Kenya started in 1950’s and gained momentum in the 1960’s, when two Olkaria wells were drilled.  Olkaria generates about a quarter of Kenya’s power, transmitting some of it nearly 500km (310 miles) south-east to Kenya’s port city of Mombasa;
  • Kenya relies on geothermal steam for 38% of its power – a greater proportion than any other nation. Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) PLC produces about 72% of the electricity consumed in Kenya, with over 80% of this being sourced from renewable sources. The company, which has a total installed generation capacity of 1,818 MW has been focusing on renewable energy development including the latest Olkaria 1 Unit 6 geothermal project which is envisaged to add 83.3 MW to the national grid this year;
  • Most of the current Geothermal Energy developments use high enthalpy resources, but low and medium enthalpy resources could be explored and developed and these opportunities could be exploited to initially support the domestic utility grid and eventually the wider region’s national grids (e.g., Ethiopia-Kenya-Uganda and Tanzania).

Thanks to team member Swati Gupta for producing this article.

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