Geothermal power boost for East Africa

December 10, 2008

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 10 – Pilot drilling using new technology has revealed awesome potential for geothermal power in East Africa\’s Great Rift Valley.

Engineers using new seismic tools to locate hotspots hit powerful veins of steam, warmed by heat from Earth\’s core, near the Kenyan capital Nairobi, according to the UN Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Several wells have been identified, most of them generating four to five megawatts of electricity, while one has a "bumper" capacity of eight megawatts, they said.

"The energy doesn\’t come from an oil tanker," GEF chief executive officer Monique Barbut said.

"This is a story that has been frankly under-reported… it\’s a nice change of pace from all the doom-and-gloom stories you have been hearing about."

The geothermal potential from the Rift Valley is "at least 7 000 megawatts", providing a mighty contribution to the energy needs of 12 countries in East Africa, she said.

Under geothermal, superheated water from underground is drawn to the surface, where it can be harnessed for several uses according to the temperature.

In Kenya\’s case, the water, heated at a depth of 2km or 3km, emerges as steam, which can be used to drive turbines.

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