Why Geothermal Energy over others?
The expansion to existing geothermal operations offers the least cost, environmentally clean source of energy (green) and highest potential to the country.
Kenya is one of the leading countries globally with significant geothermal resources. The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Energy has already undertaken significant investment in developing this sector. This includes supporting scientific research, drilling and generation of electricity. However, geothermal development has stalled in recent years because of limited funding and lack of private sector participation in this sub sector due to high risks associated with exploration and development of geothermal sites.
In order to fast track the installed capacity to meet the increasing demand for electricity, the GoK has embarked on developing the available geothermal resources. Geothermal has been chosen as the best alternative for capacity expansion because of the following reasons:
- Geothermal energy is an indigenous, environmentally attractive and proven energy resource. It is quite abundant and widespread throughout the Rift Valley of Kenya, and perhaps locally elsewhere in the country.
- Geothermal energy, unlike hydroelectric power, is immune to the adverse effects of climate change. This enhances its value as base load electricity.
- Geothermal energy does not have the adverse environmental effects unlike coal, diesel or gas-fired generation.
- Through geothermal electricity generation valuable CO2 credits can be earned through CDM thus reducing overall cost while protecting Kenya’s environment.
- The cost of hydrocarbon-based fuels is likely to remain high throughout the foreseeable future. The effect of this will be less on geothermal energy than on diesel or gas fired generation.
- The ability to maintain and grow hydro generation capacity is increasingly limited, at a time when the country’s demand for electricity is close to the boundary of the existing plants’ output capabilities.
- Surface exploration has indicated potential geothermal reserves at Longonot, Suswa and Menengai, Korosi, Paka, Silali and Chepchuk. All of these are easily accessible to transmission lines and to load centres.
- There is a fully trained, capable and experienced team of geothermal experts within GDC. In addition, facilities such as laboratories and equipment are available.
- Modern technology has made it possible to undertake deep drilling to depths of more than 3 km vertically and directionally thus improving the chances of striking more steam.
- Kenya’s Least Cost Power Development Plan has ranked geothermal power as a cost effective source for continued electricity development. As depicted in the Screening Curve (Figure 4), geothermal is one of the most economical electricity generation options over a wide range of capacity factors. The annualized cost of electricity for geothermal is lower than most thermal alternatives.
As evidence of the effectiveness of geothermal energy, the installed generating capacity at Olkaria I power station has produced electricity as base load since 1981 at an average operating factor above 90%.