Menengai Crater power plant construction to kick off in December

Friday, October 11th, 2019 21:37 |

Construction of the first multi-billion-shilling power generating plant at the Menengai Geothermal Station in Nakuru will commence in December.

County Commissioner Erastus Mbui Mwenda saidKenyaElectricity Transmission Company Ltd (Ketraco) and the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) had already built power transmission lines that will link the station to the national grid.

Three independent power producers (IPPs) have been cleared by GDC and granted licences by the State to start operations at the Menengai Crater floor.

Sosian Menengai, Quantam Power East Africa and OrPower22 are expected to set up power plants under a build–own–operate model, giving hope for cheap electrical power in the country. Each firm is expected to set up at least a 35 megawatt (MW) modular geothermal power plant in the crater field to generate a cumulative of 170MW.

Mwenda, who spoke when members of the Nakuru County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) inspected the facility, however, conceded that construction of the power plants was behind schedule as the project had been slated to kick off in January this year.

“The IPPs have encountered a few challenges in sourcing for funding. All is well now. The first plant will be complete within 22 months and will add to the national grid an additional 170MW. Kenyans are inching closer to getting lower power bills when the three independent power producers start operations at the Menengai Crater floor,” he said.

Also present at the meeting were Richard Tuta from the Presidential Delivery Unit, county departmental heads and representatives of various State corporations.

Sosian was scheduled to start operations by September after receiving Sh6.5 billion funding from the China-based Zhejiang Kaishan Compressor to construct a geothermal power plant. The two firms further entered into a 14-year Sh1.8 billion operations and maintenance of systems agreement.

Quantam Power was the first of the three IPPs that were chosen to take part in the project to receive a letter of support from the government. The company intends to develop its plant at a cost of Sh8.2 billion. The African Development Bank will provide Sh4.03 billion.

OrPower22 is still strategising to attain financial closure with financiers.

Mwenda said geothermal energy will be critical in all fronts because of its affordability, adding that the energy will drive the agenda of food security and manufacturing.

GDC is also banking on mining heat from steam to support manufacturing and attaining of food security.The firm plans to pump an extra 1065MW into the national grid in the next 10 years.

The power will be generated from Menengai (465MW), Baringo-Silale (300MW) and 300MW from South Rift region as the government seeks more geothermal energy.

GDC Geothermal Development Resources general manager Cornel Ofuna said the firm had commenced the second phase of drilling wells at the Menengai Crater floor targeting an addition 60MW.

“Once complete, the Menengai Geothermal Station will produce enough electricity to serve almost half a million homesteads and 300,000 businesses. Kenya has been ranked ninth globally in geothermal power generating capacity,” he said.

“We top in Africa with 700MW and are ahead of the technological heavyweight Japan, which has been ranked 10th with an output of 500MW,” Ofuna observed.

Speaking separately, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui lauded the implementation of other direct uses of geothermal energy by GDC.

“I’m glad to learn that GDC is using heat from geothermal steam to pasteurise milk, heat greenhouses and fish ponds. I understand that soon GDC will install a cereals drier that uses heated steam to dry food. That is critical for food security,” said the governor.

He said both domestic and industrial consumers will benefit from low power tariffs.

“We are proposing to have industrial parks close to these power plants. They will benefit from tariffs, which will be the lowest at $7 cents per KWh. The industries will also utilise the readily available geothermal steam for processing at very competitive rates. I’m of the strongest conviction that GDC efforts are going to be a major boost to the BIG Four agenda,” he said. 


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