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Kenya unveils 280-MW geothermal power project

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki officially announced the construction of a geothermal power plant project that will raise the country’s total electricity output by 25 percent, ensuring ample energy supply while reducing costs and dependence on foreign electricity.

According to a report in, the $981 million Olkaria geothermal project by state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company will contribute 280-megawatts to the national grid when completed in 2014.

"I am happy to note that this project begins the shift from water-based electricity to a geothermal-based power future which is more affordable and stable," said President Mwai Kibaki.

Kenya is greatly dependent on hydro-power for its power generation, a resource that is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The nation is looking into more reliable alternative energy resources such as wind and geothermal power.

In a study by the Maanvit Consortium of Iceland, it is found out that the Olkaria complex near capital city Nairobi has a latent 560 megawatts of power capacity.

The new project will increase the amount of geothermal power in the country from around 155 MW to 435 MW, adding to the existing capacity of three geothermal projects: Olkaria I (45 MW), Olkaria II (65 MW) and Olkaria III (48 MW).

The country is seeking to generate at least 5,000 megawatts of power from its immense geothermal reserve by 2030.

Meanwhile, President Kibaki calls for support in the move towards geothermal-powered Kenya, saying that “the government cannot single-handedly raise the resources need for geothermal power exploration and development.”

The country has feed-in tariff system that intends to attract investors and developers to involve themselves in renewable energy projects.

Kenya is the first among African nations to tap the potential of their geothermal resources, according to the United Nations.

Supported by the KenGen, the Government of Kenya World Bank, German Development Bank KfW, European Investment Bank, French development finance institution AFD and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the geothermal project is set to make Kenya the “world's single biggest project in terms of power output.”

It will draw the country closer to the top geothermal energy producers United States with 3,000-megawatt output and Philippines with 2,000-megawatts.

Apart from the 280-megawatt Olkaria power plant underway, KenGen sets another target of 520-megawatt capacity, aiming to generate half of its total output from geothermal by 2018. – C. Dominguez

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