News / Economy

Kenya's Geothermal Industry Grows

Kenya's Geothermal Industry Growsi
X
July 31, 2013 6:43 PM
With Kenya's proximity to the Great Rift, once a hotbed of volcanic activity, the country is the biggest producer of geothermal energy on the continent. Currently 13 percent of the national grid is powered by this renewable energy, but untapped geothermal fields have the potential to cover all of Kenya's power needs, and then some. From Nairobi, Roopa Gogineni has this report for VOA..
Roopa Gogineni
With Kenya's proximity to the Great Rift, once a hotbed of volcanic activity, the country is the biggest producer of geothermal energy on the continent. Currently 13 percent of the national grid is powered by this renewable energy, but untapped geothermal fields have the potential to cover all of Kenya's power needs, and then some. 

Near the Kenyan town of Naivasha, Isaac Kirimi treks up a steaming hillside. Kirimi is a drilling superintendent with KenGen, Kenya’s leading power company.

“This is like a live volcano! You can easily convince someone you’re in hell,” he said.

The rocks underfoot are still soft. He looks for a small bushy plant known as geothermal grass, which thrives in high ground temperatures.

“It is normally used by scientists to give them an indication of where there is potential for geothermal resources,” said Kirimi. "A scientist is like a wild person. You are imagining things and now trying to transfer that imagination. And try to convince someone to invest in that is not very easy."

Investing in renewable energy

Today, more than 30 years after KenGen built its first geothermal plant in the area, investment in renewable energy is booming. KenGen, with government support, is ramping up geothermal production.
 
"The cost of drilling can be prohibitive:  the drilling costs, the power plant costs, and interconnecting all of these wells. Once you do that, you have nothing else to do for the next 25 years…except build another one. But we know the source is the center of the earth, so there will always be energy," said Geoffrey Muchemi, a development manager at KenGen.

For now, a majority of Kenya’s energy needs are met by hydroelectric power.  But hydropower is diminished during rain shortages, leading to Kenya’s regular blackouts.

To harness geothermal energy, wells are first dug more than two kilometers into the earth’s surface.

The steam released by the wells is monitored for several months. If it's exploitable, hot water and steam are extracted from the well.  The steam travels through pipes to a power plant, where it is converted into electrical energy. The water is re-injected into the earth.

Displacement fears

Near the wells, KenGen is also developing a geothermal spa. It features a large pool with mineral-rich waters, modeled after the Blue Lagoon in Iceland where many KenGen engineers studied.  

But not all Kenyans support the expansion of geothermal energy.  
 
Reuben Sempui belongs to a Masaai community on Mt. Suswa, the site of a proposed geothermal project.

"The Masaai live inside the outer crater rim. In the inner crater rim, nobody lives there," Sempui explained. "So these are the manyattas [homesteads] where the Masaai live."

Sempui’s community faces displacement if the project goes ahead. Members of the community are negotiating with KenGen, demanding employment opportunities and a share of the revenue generated by the well.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8874
JPY
USD
120.83
GBP
USD
0.6497
CAD
USD
1.3271
INR
USD
66.162

Rates may not be current.