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Picture feature: Africa's leading geothermal energy producer

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Africa's geothermal potential is huge, particularly in the Rift Valley, which extends from the Horn of Africa to Malawi. In East Africa alone, the potential capacity is over 20 GW. Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy in Africa and aims to produce over 50% of its power from geothermal energy by 2030.


Steam seen rising from Olkaria III, located in Hell's Gate National Park in the Olkaria region of Kenya on April 26, 2023.( Photo: Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency)


Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency


Africa's geothermal potential is huge, particularly in the Rift Valley, which extends from the Horn of Africa to Malawi. According to the United Nations Environment Program and the Infrastructure Consortium, the geothermal potential capacity for eastern Africa is more than 20 GW.


Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy in Africa and is ranked among the top ten in the world. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) currently generates 799 megawatts (MW) from geothermal steam, which is found deep underground in the Rift Valley but aims to produce over 50% of its power from geothermal energy by 2030.


The world's largest geothermal power producer is the United States, with 3,794MW, while Iceland, which produces 99% of its electricity from renewable resources, uses geothermal for 20% of its energy needs. Geothermal accounts for over 40% of Kenya's power.


The Olkaria Geothermal Power Plants, which is the largest geothermal power complex in Kenya, is owned and operated by KENGEN.


According to Cyrus Karingithi, the Resource Development and Infrastructure Manager at Kengen, drilling and generating power from a single geothermal source can cost up to US$6 million.


The first geothermal plant in Kenya was built 42 years ago with a capacity to generate 45 MW of power. The country now aims to increase the amount of geothermal to supply over 50% of its power needs by 2030.


(Pictures 1 )


Olkaria III is located in the Hell's Gate National Park in the Olkaria region of Kenya and has a total of 139 MW installed capacity. It started operations in 2000, with a capacity of 13 MW.


The geothermal well emitting smoke in Olkaria, Naivasha Kenya, April 26, 2023. (Photo : Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency)


(Picture 2) A KenGen Wellhead Power Station at Olakaria


A wellhead is a miniature power plant with all the components of a standard power plant. Each wellhead generates 5 to 6 megawatts of power.


A KenGen Wellhead Power Station at Olkaria, Naivasha Kenya, April 26, 2023. (Photo : Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency)


A wellhead can be installed within six months, while a big power plant takes about 36 months. KenGen has 16 wellheads generating 83.5 megawatts. One megawatt can power 5000 homes.


(Pictures 3 )


Located in the Olkaria area in Kenya's Hell's Gate National Park, the Olkaria V geothermal plant is a 165MW geothermal power project.



A section of the giant pipes used for channelling steam at the Olkaria V geothermal plant in Olkaria, Naivasha Kenya, April 26, 2023. (Photo ; Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency)

(Pic 4 & 6)


Steam from a geothermal plant is seen rising behind a hot water pool at a spa in Olkaria, Naivasha Kenya, April 26, 2023. (Photo ; Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency)


The geothermal spa hot water pool at Olkaria is one of the largest natural hot water pools in Africa. The spa consists of 3 cascading ponds that receive geothermal water collected from wells inside the Olkaria geothermal field.


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