Geothermal Development Company eyes more wells in Rift Valley

Geothermal Development Company , water

Villagers queue for fresh water at a watering point established by the Geothermal Development Company in Silali, Baringo County. 


Photo credit: Pool

A power firm has intensified exploration works in the Rift Valley after getting a Sh549 million grant from the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility in its bid to strengthen the country’s quest to boost the share of green energy in the national grid.

Geothermal Development Company (GDC) seeks to drill more wells along the East Africa rift system that’s already home to Africa’s largest geothermal power plants at Olkaria in Naivasha and Menengai in the outskirts of Nakuru Town. In Baringo County, where GDC is drilling more wells in Paka, Korosi and Silali, it is mulling over establishing industrial heat parks.

The heat park concept is an approach where, apart from power generation, geothermal energy is used in industrial heating and for recreational and leisure.

Reliable and affordable

“Heat parks will transform Baringo County and the country at large. A heat park offering reliable and affordable energy will create jobs and boost the economy of the region,” Mr Jared Othieno, the GDC Managing Director said.

Mr Othieno spoke during a tour of the project accompanied by German Development Bank (KFW) officials last week.

The KFW mission was led by the bank’s country director for Kenya and Somalia, Mr Oska von Maltazan, who extolled GDC’s strategy of integrating fresh water projects in the communities.

“The progress so far is impressive. There are many highlights in this project... The most exciting was to see that huge well discharging steam and demonstrating the power of the earth. When fully harnessed, this energy will spur major economic growth for this country,” Mr Matazan said.

KFW is financing the first phase of the Baringo-Silali geothermal project at a cost of €80 million (Sh10.5 billion).

Key components of the financing include drilling of up to 20 exploration and appraisal wells, building roads and water supplies, feasibility studies and management consultancies.

The KFW boss expressed hope of renewal of the financing agreement after the current one ends in August 2022.

 The Baringo-Silali block is estimated to have a potential of 3,000 MW. For the first phase, GDC aims at developing 300 MW by 2030 at the Paka, Korosi and Silali fields.

“Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, our rigs continued to drill. Our field crew have demonstrated admirable resilience that against all odds, they’ve been committed to serving the nation,” Mr Othieno said.

“Already we’re changing the lives of residents through the provision of purified fresh water. Our freshwater pipeline is 160 kilometres long. We’ve 20 water purification points where residents draw water for domestic use. We have also provided water troughs for cattle. We’re planning to expand the water line as the project progresses,” the MD added.

GDC recently struck a huge well at Paka Hills, boosting its quest to develop geothermal energy in the country. Meanwhile, Nakuru County is banking on geothermal power to drive its industrial revolution.

Nakuru hopes to rely on geothermal energy to power its economy at a time when the drive to turn Naivasha to a major economic hub in Kenya and East Africa is gathering pace.

Efficient transport

Already, more than 50 local investors have expressed interest in setting up shop in the Naivasha Special Economic Zone.

Firms that will establish themselves in Nakuru, including those that will be located within the Naivasha Economic Zone, will have access to cheap geothermal power directly from Olkaria and Menengai.

They will also enjoy an efficient transport system that will facilitate storage, export and re-export, standard gauge railway transport to and from Mombasa port and special tax incentives in line with provisions of the Fiscal Incentives Act, 2015.

The Nation has established that various businesses, including firms dealing in textiles, motor vehicles, cooking gas, animal feeds, building and construction, mobile phones, foods and beverages, paper, and hospitality, have applied through the Department of Trade to take up space on the 50-acre plot President Kenyatta allocated last year.

Last week, the government allocated Sh350 million to support the development of the Naivasha Special Economic Zone.

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