Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Geothermal Country Notes
The country has a high dependence on hydropower for electricity generation (approximately 60%), but the unreliability of the water resource poses a problem, particularly for the industrial sector's power supply and also more generally leads to the purchase of expensive and polluting fossil fuels. With its substantial geothermal resource, the Kenyan Government has expressed its commitment to support the further development of this potential.
It is often reported that Kenya possesses a geothermal potential in the region of 2 000 MWe (Kenya Electricity Generating Company [KenGen] states that research has shown a potential of more than 3 000 MWe). The fourteen prospects that have been identified lie in the Rift Valley but to date wells have been drilled at only two sites. These are situated at Olkaria near Lake Naivasha (about 120 km north-west of Nairobi) and Eburru, but only the former has been exploited.
KenGen's Olkaria I was Africa's first geothermal power station when the first unit came into operation in mid-1981, with an initial installed net capacity of 15 MWe. Two more 15 MWe units were added in 1982 and 1985.
The 2 x 35 MWe units of the Olkaria II plant (African's largest geothermal power plant and co-financed by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, KfW of Germany and KenGen) were commissioned in late-2003. The World Bank has approved funding for a further 35 MWe unit to be added to Olkaria II.
Kenyan geothermal power output was increased by 12 MWe in 2000 when the first two stages of Kenya's first private geothermal plant were installed at Olkaria III. It was announced in January 2007 that the necessary regulatory approvals for an additional stage of Olkaria III (35 MWe) had been made; construction was expected to begin during the first quarter of 2007 and completion was expected some 20 months later.
KenGen announced in December 2006 that the drilling of wells that would eventually lead to the construction of the 70 MWe Olkaria IV plant would begin early in 2007.
The use of thermal waters for direct purposes is limited, although hot springs are being utilised by hotels to heat spas and there is some use of steam at Eburru for domestic purposes. The Government has proposed the creation of a company to specifically develop the country's geothermal resource, which in turn would encourage the development of direct uses.
To date there has been one successful instance of a commercial direct-use application. Oserian began as a 5 ha vegetable-growing farm in 1969. Today it has grown to be a 210 ha farm specialising in floriculture with an annual output of 380 million stems. The Geothermal Rose Project covers an area of 50 ha. The greenhouse heating system is powered by a 2 MWe binary-cycle power plant commissioned in September 2004, making the company self-sufficient in electricity needs.
In forthcoming years it is expected that much exploration drilling will take place in the Suswa, Longonot and Menengai prospects, with the aim of helping Kenya to generate a greater proportion of its electricity from geothermal power.