Kenyans have yet another reason to smile after Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) completed the construction of the 83MW Olkaria I, Additional Unit (AU) 6 Geothermal Power Plant, setting in motion activities to add it to the national power grid.
This milestone follows a successful delivery of full steam to the power plant, setting in motion technical processes to commercial operation which is expected by June 2022. This is a double win for Kenyans, firstly on climate action as geothermal is renewable and secondly on reliability and affordability considering that geothermal will predictably displace other more expensive sources of energy.
KenGen Managing Director and CEO, Rebecca Miano, lauded the milestone as a big step forward in the country’s progress toward 100% utilization of renewable energy by the year 2030 which she also said will ensure a reliable supply of clean electricity to drive Kenya’s economic development.
She said, “The construction of Olkaria I Unit 6 is aligned to the company’s long-term strategy and Kenya’s Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) focused on sustainable supply of renewable energy in support of the Government’s Big Four Agenda.”
The plant which is expected to inject 83.3MW into the national grid is currently undergoing reliability tests to confirm its output. This is the final process signaling completion of construction period.
The initial steam admission, which is an integral part of verifying the performance of the turbine was conducted by the turbine manufacturer, Fuji Electric Global in conjunction with the project Contractor, Marubeni Corporation.
The tests come nearly nine months since the commencement of works to install the steam turbine at the new power plant. The turbine is now the largest single unit of turbine ever installed in any of KenGen’s geothermal power stations. This was also the first time a Fuji turbine was being installed not only in Kenya but in Africa.
Today, geothermal accounts for up to 39% of KenGen’s total installed generation capacity. With the additional 83MW, geothermal is expected to grow from the current 713MW to 796MW pushing up the share of KenGen’s geothermal installed capacity to about 42%.
Construction of Olkaria I, Additional Unit 6 geothermal power plant commenced in December 2018 following a groundbreaking ceremony which was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Olkaria Geothermal Spa is the first of its kind in Africa. It is located on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, about 120KM from Nairobi, right at the heart of the Hell’s Gate National Park, which was the setting the Lion King film and adjacent to Mt. Longonot National Park. The Centre is a product of Geothermal Power Projects at Olkaria where Kenya Electricity Generating Company Limited (KenGen) owns and operates four Power Plants. It provides the ultimate destination for revellers, away from the hustle and bustles of the city. The breath-taking scenery creates a memorable experience. It is the perfect tourist destination.
The Olkaria Geothermal Spa offers recreational and therapeutic swimming with its Blue Lagoons.
There are three cascading lagoons or ponds. These ponds receive geothermal water or brine, collected through a system of lagged pipes from various wells within the Olkaria Geothermal field. The first is the receiving pond. It receives hot geothermal water with temperatures of approximately 90oC. This pond is not usable because of high temperatures.
The Second pond fills up from the overflow of the first pond and has temperatures of about 60oC. It is also not usable.
The third and largest pond receives the overflow of the second pond and overpass from the first pond. Its temperatures range from lows of 30oC to highs of 40oC, and is good for relaxation as one enjoys the warmth of the water. The pool can accommodate up to 400 people. This pool has an island in the middle for aesthetic and lighting purposes at night as it has a lamppost.
An extension of this pond is the children’s pool suitable for kids below 8 years.
The Spa is equipped with poolside furniture such as sun loungers, fancy tables and chairs.
Benefits of the Spa
Users enjoy therapeutic benefits of the Olkaria Geothermal Spa and have the opportunity to relax, refresh and revitalize their minds, bodies and soul after a long stressful week. They can simply enjoy the clean, crisp, cool and reinvigorating air as they watch the day glide by or take a relax in the warm geothermal water, which is rich in minerals such as sulphur and silica known to cure diseases such as psoriasis, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis among others. The blue lagoon skin treatment is natural and has no side effects.
The 280MW KenGen Olkaria Geothermal power project consists of two similar power plants namely Olkaria I Extension and Olkaria IV. They are located about ten kilometers apart. Each power plant includes connections of about twenty-five high temperature geothermal steam wells covering an area of about ten square kilometers. The steam field
development facilities include roads, steam and brine pipelines, separator stations, underground power supply and control cables and other system networks. Hazards in the steam field include hot pipelines (up to 160°C), open ponds, hydrogen sulphide gas, loud noise during well testing or plant malfunction, and dust during construction.
The Olkaria IV steam field area was occupied by the local Maasai community most of whom had lived there as squatters and for over twenty years. Under Kenyan Law, a person who has consistently lived on somebody else’s land for a period of more than twelve years has a right to claim ownership by adverse possession (Limitation of Actions Act, section 8). This Maasai community had established traditional homesteads, schools, churches, and a cultural centre. Like other Maasai communities they are pastrolists. They own and graze cattle in the vast grasslands of the Rift Valley including private lands that are not developed or fenced. The Olkaria IV area was a small portion of a larger piece of land that was privately owned and not fenced. The squatter community living in this area was used to casual work and supply of water by the KenGen power plants. In addition, the local Maasai children were taken to school by a KenGen bus through a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. At the time of the project, the community population was about 900 people, settled in four villages with 150 households.
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) recommended that the Maasai
families be resettled in a suitable area. The resettlement action plan (RAP) for the project affected persons (PAPs) was to be completed within the three-year power project period (2011 to 2014). The Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) identified the facilities to be built for the resettlement including 150 homesteads, a school, a health centre, a cattle dip, 2 fishponds, 3 churches, and a social hall. Water, electrical supply, and roads were to be established for each homestead and the other facilities. Resettlement was to take place before commissioning of the Olkaria IV power plant to avoid exposing project affected persons (the Maasai families) to power plant hazards.
KenGen identified a piece of land about five kilometers away from the Geothermal area to resettle the Project Affected Maasai. 1,700 acres of land was purchased for this resettlement. A decision was made to separate the resettlement project from the power plant construction contract. The resettlement project would be awarded to a local contractor to accommodate local community needs which would not be easily understood by a foreign power plant contractor. It was decided that an internal consultancy be formed to oversee the implementation to accommodate the design changes which would arise from the local community during the implementation. A stakeholder coordination
committee (SCC) was formed as a mediator to handle issues associated with the Resettlement Action Plan. The stakeholder coordination committee had a wider role to
manage other stakeholder matters including coordination of health, safety and environment affecting the local people. It also coordinated employment and business op-
opportunities available for the local people from the power plant contractors.
Eventually the resettlement facilities were completed, and the Project affected persons migrated to the resettlement area on 21st August 2014 just before commissioning of the power plant in September 2014. Both the resettlement and the power plant projects were successfully completed within the cost and time schedules that were anticipated. Each of the resettled Maasai family now enjoys a modern homestead comprising a four roomed masonry house with and external toilet and bathroom, and rainwater tank. They also enjoy a modern school and a health centre fully equipped by government through the relevant ministries. Four temporary church buildings were each replaced with modern masonry church buildings at the resettlement site and a social hall added. Electricity was connected to each house and all the facilities. In addition, a communal water supply was installed throughout the resettlement site.
A few challenges have been experienced in the resettlement village including vandalism of the water supply and erosion of road works due to the loose nature of the volcanic soils in the area.
Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen) has completed drilling of the seventh geothermal well in Ethiopia further bolstering the company’s renewable energy footprint in the Horn of Africa.
This latest announcement is from the Aluto-Langano geothermal site where KenGen is implementing a drilling consultancy project for the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) company. The drilling of the seventh well was completed on schedule at a depth of 3,000 meters.
“This is the second 3,000 meters well we have drilled in Ethiopia so far, and I must commend our teams on the ground for successfully delivering to expectations despite the threats of COVID-19 and security situation in Ethiopia at the time of project implementation,” said KenGen Managing Director and CEO, Rebecca Miano.
This milestone reaffirms the NSE-listed company’s expertise in geothermal development in Africa, having earlier drilled the deepest geothermal well in the Horn of Africa also at a depth of 3,000 meters on November 11, 2021.
Commenting on the project timelines, Miano said: “We have now embarked on drilling of the fifth geothermal well under the EEP project in Aluto-Langano and we expect to complete the work in a fortnight’s time.”
The Ethiopian and Djiboutian ventures are part of KenGen’s ambitious diversification strategy, in which the company is seeking to acquire new revenue streams by offering commercial drilling services, geothermal consulting and other related services across Africa.
Locally, KenGen continues to grow Kenya’s geothermal capacity and has now started drilling of additional geothermal wells in Eburru geothermal field located in Naivasha.
Kenya is Africa’s number one geothermal energy producer and among top 10 in the world with an installed capacity of 863MW with KenGen contributing about 713MW. The country has an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000MW spread along its part of the Rift Valley circuit.