Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Geothermal power holds key to future

Geothermal power holds key to future - Daily Nation

If Vision 2030 is to be realised, Kenya will have to invest aggressively in geothermal electricity production.

It is estimated that the Menengai fields in Nakuru District alone have the potential to produce more electricity than what the whole country currently consumes. Indeed, Kenya is in the cusp of a boom in geothermal energy.

So far, about 14 prospecting sites have been identified, most of them in the Rift Valley. Studies carried out at these sites indicate that the country has the potential to generate over 7,000 megawatts of electricity.

This presents the best option out of dependence on rainfall for power generation. We depend on rainfall for electricity and we can’t generate enough power.

Presently, the effective installed capacity of electricity when we get normal rainfall is a mere 1,428 MW — against a peak demand of about 1,200 MW. This means that the economy has a thin reserve margin of just about 20 per cent.

The ritual is all too familiar. During low rainfall, the peak demand predictably outstrips available capacity, resulting in power shortages.

Inevitably, the government resorts to installing expensive diesel-driven emergency power generators. When diesel prices increase, electricity tariffs are automatically adjusted upwards.

While goethermal electricity production has been going on for many years, what the government is doing now is a major point of departure. It has created a special agency — the Geothermal Development Corporation — to deal with exploitation.

It has started developing capacity to drill wells more cost effectively by employing its own equipment.

Clearly, geothermal energy is the most economical electricity generation option for this country.

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