UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tours Geothermal Plant in East Africa's Great Rift Valley
Full Steam Ahead Towards a Green Economy in Kenya
Nairobi, 2 April 2011 - The rise of geothermal energy in Kenya's Great Rift Valley was witnessed today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who toured the Olkaria plant northwest of the country's capital of Nairobi.
He was joined by Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, Managing Director of the energy company Kengen, Eddy Njoroge and members of the UN Chief Executives Board, including UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
Africa's largest Geothermal Power Station, Olkaria generates over 150 Megawatts (MW) into the national grid, with Kenya aiming for 1200 MW by 2018.
The state-of-the-art plant, located on the Great Rift Valley, operates on a single flash plant cycle with steam consumption of 7.5 t/h/MW.
Geothermal power generation requires exploration and drilling for steam generated by the 'hot rocks' of relatively young geological areas to turn the electricity-generating turbines. But high up-front costs and the substantial risks involved in geothermal development have meant only a fraction of the Great Rift Valley's geothermal potential has been exploited.
In 2002 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) began working with the National Power Generation Utility of Kenya (KenGen) on the Joint Geophysical Imaging (JGI) for the Geothermal Reservoir Assessment project, with the aim of lowering geothermal development costs by improving the interpretation of geophysical data, and so reducing the number of expensive, unproductive wells.
Working at KenGen's Olkaria facility, improvements in imaging and interpretation have increased the chances of hitting steam, and made it easier to identify wells of high generation potential.
The UN Secretary-General said: "It is a remarkable story, not just in terms of renewable energy and climate change, but in partnership and development. It is among a growing number of examples of how the United Nations, the World Bank, donor governments and the private sector are supporting forward-looking public policies -policies that can help to reduce poverty and lay the foundations for a truly sustainable future."