Geothermal energy: Turkey is Kenya's next target

A geothermal Steam Gathering System
 The stage is now set for Kenya’s 105MW geothermal electricity generation to take off. The US$108 million at the Menengai geothermal station is now complete,
announced Africa Development Bank. The project involved well-drilling and construction of the Steam Gathering System (SGS).

The bank, the co-financier of the development phase, says the project met all targets. These include drilling 50 Wells and construction of the steam gathering system.  It drilled 49 Wells producing enough steam to generate 170 MW against the initial target of 150MW.

The report says that completion of the phase1 was a drawback to the financial closure of the IPP contract due to conditions attached to the deal.  Among the conditions were; approved PPA contracts and, Proof of Steam Supply Agreement, PISSA. These conditions could not be met before the completion of phase 1 since Menengai geothermal was a greenfield project.

 However, the completion of this phase has met all conditions, paving the way for financial closures for the electricity generation phase to begin.  The Bank, therefore, expects the construction of power generation plants to begin this year and commission in two years’ time.  Other outputs such as a reduction in carbon emission are on course to be met once electricity generation begins.

Three IPPs are contracted to generate 105 MW of power on a Build Own and Operate, BOO, basis.  This means that they have to bear the construction and generation risk hence the need for financial closures. BOO places the risk of initial capital outlay for drilling, steam gathering system, and evacuation on the government because the private sector has no stomach for such risk.

Now that, such infrastructure, including the High Voltage evacuation line and substation is in place, it says, the pace of financial closure will accelerate.

The completion was delayed for three years due to a number of causes.  Some, such as the geological formation of the site were exogenous and unforeseen. The geological formation, for instance, forced a change of drilling mode from Vertical to directional.  The firm had no expertise in this mode of drilling forcing it to outsource it.  Even then, the latter mode proved even more productive.

Also, there was a steep learning curve for Geothermal Development Corporation, GDC, as it did not have the requisite skills base given it is a new corporation.

  However, the report is positive that the future phases of the Menengai will be smooth sailing given the acquisition of expertise during the first phase.

Kenya, the leader in geothermal power development in Africa and the fifth in the world, has an ambitious program of exploiting geothermal energy to meet its growing demand for cheap electricity. Her potential geothermal capacity is 10,000 MW, the largest in Africa.

Already Geothermal has replaced Hydro as the base electricity source. Currently, her installed geothermal capacity is 1.152 GW surpassing Hydro 885 MW. Unlike, hydro, geothermal is an all-weather power source that does not suffer from the ravages of weather. Being a green source, it mitigates climate change by eliminating carbon emissions. The project will cut carbon emissions by 0.6 million tons a year once electricity generation begins.

This gives Kenya.a shot at the fourth slot in the international ranking of geothermal powerhouses. Once commissioned, Menengai will raise Kenya's geothermal capacity to 1230 MW other things being the same. But if Kengen, the largest electricity generator in the region,  commissions further capacity, Turkey's fourth slot could be threatened. Turkey boasts of 1500MW of geothermal electricity.

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