Monday, 26 November 2012

Tanzania to exploit geothermal power capacity

TANZANIA, EAST AFRICA'S second largest economy,  has turned to geothermal power to meet the increasing demand for power in the country.  Power shortages are a mill on the country economic progress. The country will drill its first geothermal power wells in Mbeya next year.

Ol Karia wells: Africa's leading geothermal wells
The country has the potential to generate some 650 MW of geothermal power.  However, it will start with 200 MW implemented in two phases. The first phase will produce 100 MW or 12.5 per cent of the country’s power output by 2016. The second phase, which starts in 2015, will load another 100 MW to the national grid by 2018.

It costs an estimated US$2 00 million to develop a 100 MW geothermal plant at current prices. Therefore to develop the first 200 MW will cost an estimated US$400 million. This means that for Tanzania to develop its full potential it will require more than US$1.2 billion.

Already she has applied for a total of US$50 million from the AfDB to finance the project. The funds, we have reliably learnt will be approved by February next year.

Tanzania currently produces an estimated 800 MW, way below power demand, which is expected to reach 1 583 MW by 2015. Her major source of power is hydro vulnerable to erratic weather However she is looking at developing a mix of power generation sources. Apart from hydro, and geothermal the country is also looking at producing power from natural gas following big discoveries offshore. Other sources to be developed simultaneous with the geothermal sources are wind and solar sources.

 Tanzania is the second African country to exploit geothermal power after Kenya. Kenya is the giant in Africa in exploiting geothermal power to meet domestic demand. To date she generates more than 150 MW of geothermal power but expects to raise this capacity to more than 1,000 MW by 2016. Kenya estimated potential is 10.000 MW of geothermal power. Sources indicate that there's a  huge undiscovered potential in Tanzania.

Signs that Tanzania was considering exploiting geothermal energy emerged in early September when the Tanzanian Pre3sident, Jakaya Kikwete, visited Kenya and spent time visiting the Ol karia Geothermal wells.
Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the earth’s crust. The energy is manifested on the earth’s surface in the form of fumaroles, hot springs and hot and altered grounds. To extract this energy, wells are drilled to tap steam and water at high temperatures (250-350°C) and pressures (600-1200 PSI) at depths of 1-3 km. For electricity generation, the steam is piped to a turbine, which rotates a generator to produce electrical energy.

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