Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kenya Plans To Expand Geothermal Energy

By  Diana Wanyonyi

Power blackouts experienced in various parts of Kenya in the past few weeks have posed a major challenge to the entire economy of the country especially the industry and business sector that bared the heavy cost during the incidences. 
To avert such situations in future, Kenya Government through the Kenya Electricity Generation Company-KENGEN is embarking on plans to invest heavily on electricity generation in the country.

These plans are focused on expanding geothermal energy production projects in the country specifically for sufficient and reliable supply of electricity.
Olkaria II Geothermal Power plant -Kenya

Olkaria II Geothermal Power plant located in the Kenyan Rift Valley is one of those clean energy projects in the country, with a potential electric capacity of greater 105 MW. The plant has a total of 25 production wells that produce hot steam from the earth’s internal heat and three generating units. Each generating unit has capacity generating 35 MW.

Olkaria I Power Station is the first and the oldest plant in Africa, with electric capacity of 45 MW plant with three units each generating 15MW of electricity. The turbine is a thermo dynamic device that has several stages known as Impulse/ Reaction 6 – stage-condensing turbine.

The turbine run with an inlet hot steam pressure tapped from the underground magma of 4.8 bars at temperatures of 150 degrees Celsius.

According to a senior technician who requested to remain anonymous, they have already commenced on putting up a new power plant known as Olkaria IV, which will be bigger than Olkaria II Geothermal Power plant under KenGen.

“At the moment we are starting on another project called Olkaria IV Geothermal project, we are expanding first at this part of the Rift Valley called Olkaria then we will start to moving to other fields”. He said.

The new project when complete is expected to supply enough electricity to the country thus being alternative and relieve to many people who depends on power generated from hydro electricity during dry periods that are still experienced in some parts of the country blamed on climate change.

The technician says the geothermal is a clean energy, “ With the growing technology that we have in the world and also the ever growing population, we have so many problems that may come if we’d have projects which are not friendly to the environment. So the geothermal is a clean energy and being a clean energy it is therefore, widely accepted by the environment and also it is not harmful to the population around”.

Geothermal energy is the oldest renewable energy in the world that was used for various purposes such as cooking and heating. It is among energy sources that are less harmful to the environment hence contributing less to the climate change and global warming.

The energy expert explains that when steam is brought up from underground, small quantities of other gases are released into the atmosphere.

“We release Carbon dioxide (C02), Hydrogen Sulfide gas (smells like rotten eggs), Ammonia gas and we also release Methane gas. Among these gases we have the gases which contribute to climate change and global warming but by using the clean energy development mechanism we employ the processes which make sure that whatever we release to the environment is very low to a point where it won’t be able to contribute so heavily to global warming.” He uttered.

“Some of the excess gases we release them back to the underground where they pose no harm to the environment”, He finally said.

He said that there is need to sensitize the public on the need of the geothermal to avoid the criticisms that it is harmful to the environment and to human beings.

There is need for more investment in power sources like geothermal, as it is climate smart and always reliable.

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