Geothermal power to make Africa less dependent on the rest of the world
Geothermal power, the power generated from underground sources of heat and energy, could provide countries across Africa with a viable alternative to traditional energy sources like oil and gas. In the East African country, Kenya, a geothermal plant is being expanded as a pilot project to demonstrate to other countries in the region that it is a reliable and usable technology. Daniel Dickinson reports.
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Steam pours out of dozens of pipes at the Olkaria Geothermal Power Station close to Naivasha, a town one hour to the north of the Kenya capital Nairobi.
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Criss-crossing pipes and steaming funnels dot the landscape. The power station is located in one of Kenya’s national parks…so giraffe and zebra are found grazing amidst the futuristic looking structures.
The plant is actually 30 years old but there are now plans for expansion. The problem scientists face is where to drill for the steam that will provide the geothermal power.
The United Nations Environment programme or UNEP is supporting the drilling operation.Peerke de Bakker is from UNEP.
“We have encouraged the scientists working in the geothermal development to come up with more accurate data and data that can be combined so that the risk of a fail drilling is now less; and that greatly reduces the cost of geothermal exploitation.”
In a large area with untapped resources deep underground, finding the most productive places to drill can be challenging. Cyrus Karingithi, is from the Kenya Electricity Generating Company Limited.
“Using the UNEP’s contribution through the study, the joint geophysical invasion study, we were able to identify reservoir much deeper up to 3,000 metres and such that we are able to tap more power; the wells now on average are about 7 megawatts.”
That’s enough power to satisfy the demands of Naivasha town and its environs. Kenya, like many developing and developed countries across the world is looking for new sources of clean, safe and reliable power. Like many countries in Africa, it is facing a power shortage. Achim Steiner, is the UNEP Executive Director.
“Along the rift valley of East Africa there are thousands of megawatts of proven potential for geothermal power generation. It is a clean and increasingly cheap source of energy that also provides countries with an ability to be less dependent on world fossil fuel markets.”
And now, according to UNEP’s Peerke de Bakker, Kenya could act as an example to the rest of Africa.
“The geothermal prospects of Kenya itself will in the next years be developed. But the success of the project is even over and beyond because it showcased also to the other countries in the region that geothermal is not a risky technology any longer but a credible addition, a credible completion to the existing power mix.”