GDC Plans An Extra 218 MW Power From Geothermal

Geothermal Development Company (GDC) plans to pump an extra 218 Megawatts into the national grid in the next five years.

GDC Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mr Paul Ngugi said to achieve this, the State-owned corporation has laid out plans to drill 57 geothermal wells, adding that the firm will need Sh 102.2 billion (USD 802 million) to complete the project.

Mr. Ngugi indicated that to raise the funds, the firm was projecting an increase in steam sales, commercialization of direct-use projects, engagement in consultancy services, funding from the government, and investment and joint development with strategic partners.

Speaking during the launch of the GDC 2023-2027 Strategy Plan the CEO indicated that the Company has officially kicked off direct use of geothermal steam to power industrial processes within the Special Economic Zone at Menengai in Nakuru County.

Besides electricity, geothermal energy provides direct heat to industrialists, a by-product of electricity in the form of steam coming from power plants at about 1500C which Mr Ngugi observed was affordable and ‘a game changer in the manner in which Kenya’s wealth, as an emerging mid-income industrial society, will be generated,’

‘Geothermal steam can be utilized for a different range of applications ranging from industrial, agriculture, tourism, leisure and domestic, depending on the resource temperature and usage,’ noted Mr Ngugi

The CEO said GDC has been demonstrating direct-use technology in the Menengai geothermal field since 2015 where five (5) demonstration projects have been set up and commissioned.

The demonstration projects include steam heated green houses, steam heated aquaculture ponds, geothermal milk pasteurizer plant, geothermal laundry unit and geothermal grain drye

‘The direct use demo project was set up to showcase the viability of direct use technology and act as a marketing tool for GDC to potential investors, research and learning institutions and the community that surrounds Menengai Crater.

The steam powered grain dryer, the first of its kind in Kenya and the region has a capacity of drying 20 tonnes of cereals per day.

He added GDC has embarked on commercializing the technology by inviting investors to use the technology to power processes in their firms or investments.

Mr. Ngugi said that the use of geothermal steam in industrial processes will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that it was a reliable and available source of energy through all seasons.

‘GDC is optimistic that these innovations will make Kenya a competitive investment hub as Industrialists will save a great deal on energy costs when they invest in
geothermal steam powered facilities,’ indicated the CEO

He observed that if efficiently harnessed, geothermal heat will deliver energy that will enable farmers and food processors to increase production and improve food security. The steam, he explained, can also be used in the industrial drying of fish, vegetables, tea, and pyrethrum and in brewing.

The CEO added: ‘The geothermal fluid boosts tourist paradise in the form of medicinal spas, while in milk pasteurization manufacturers can cut up to 70 per cent of their heating costs by using geothermal energy. Other studies show that when it is used to heat greenhouses, the cost of production drops by about 40 per cent.’

He explained that steam harnessed from Menengai Crater Geothermal fields in Nakuru can be transported for about 10km through an elaborate reticulation of pipes and pumped into individual farms, Private homes
and industries.

‘Geothermal heated greenhouses, aquaculture ponds, dairy plants and geothermal powered laundries within that radius can negotiate with GDC for facilitation.

‘The smallest single unit of geothermal powered milk plant can process between 250,000 to 500,000 litres of milk every day. Bahati constituency which hosts Menengai crater is one of Nakuru’s best tomato producers. With adoption of this new system of energy, farmers will improve yields by more than 30 per cent,’ affirmed the CEO

Mr. Ngugi said GDC was supporting the rise of industrial parks along the geothermal belt that runs from Lake Magadi to Lake Turkana. It was also working on spots in Homa Hills and Mwananyamala in Kwale.

He explained that at 50 degrees centigrade, heated water is circulated around a greenhouse to control the humidity at night, early morning and during wet seasons of the year wh
ere humidity inside greenhouses rises above 85 per cent.

‘Greenhouse heating cuts down on the use of fungicides by reducing humidity. A constant optimum temperature inside the greenhouse results in the enhanced growth rate of plants as well as quality. Profitability may go up by more than 30 per cent as well as increasing market share of the crops due to the use of green energy’ said Mr Ngugi

A feasibility study conducted by GDC recently indicated that a medium sized milk processing plant using geothermal energy for milk processing resulted in energy cost reduction of up to 60 per cent.

‘The hot water to the washer is mixed with cold water to the required temperature of the clothes to be washed. The electrical heating element in the dryer is replaced with a specially designed fan coil unit which uses geothermal heated water at about 80 degrees centigrade to ensur
e the clothes are dry.

With regard to fish rearing, aquatic ponds are heated to and maintained at 29 degrees centigrade for optimal fish metabolism hence enhanced faster growth. Here, the geothermal heated water is mixed with cold water to attain the required temperature,’ explained Mr Ngugi.

The GDC Chief Executive stated that maintaining aquatic ponds at a constant temperature of 29 degrees’ centigrade decreases the maturity period of fish from six to four months for Tilapia hence profitability is increased by more than 40 per cent.

Geothermal energy will also come in handy in laundry systems. Heated water in the laundry can be used in the washers and dryers.

According to the Renewables Global Status 2018, Kenya tops in Africa with 700 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power.

The US has the largest geothermal generating capacity with 2,500 megawatts followed by the Philipp
ines (1,900 MW), Indonesia (1,800 MW), Turkey (1,100 MW), New Zealand (1000 MW), Mexico (900 MW), Italy (800 MW) and Iceland (750 MW).

Kenya beats technological heavyweight Japan which has been ranked tenth with an output of 500 MW.

The rest of the world shares 950 MW. Ethiopia is the only other African country with developed geothermal energy (7 MW).

Geothermal is widely considered a preferable, low-cost renewable energy source due to low emissions when compared to thermal sources.

It is also cheaper than thermal power when used as an alternative to mitigate depressed hydropower generation due to drought. Kenya has a target of 5 gigawatts (GW) geothermal capacity by the year 2030.

Green energy power plants under development in Kenya include the 300 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant, which is the single largest wind power plant in Africa, the 70 MW Olkaria 1 and the
140 MW OlKaria V.

Source: Kenya News Agency