Geothermal is Kenya’s workhorse energy source contributing to nearly half of the electricity the country consumes.
The journey has, however, been a long one.
Kenya constructed its first geothermal station in 1981, the Olkaria I. The East African nation has since built a fleet of other geothermal plants, emerging as the seventh-largest geothermal electricity producer in the world with an installed capacity of 863 megawatts (MW) as of February 2022.
Presently, nearly 85% of Kenya’s geothermal capacity is owned and operated by government-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). KenGen’s installed geothermal capacity stands at 713MW, with the firm having more projects in the pipeline.
The company uses flash steam technology for its geothermal stations.
American firm Ormat is currently the only independent power producer (IPP) with geothermal plants in Kenya and holds the remaining 15% of Kenya’s geothermal power capacity. The IPP uses binary steam cycle technology for its plants. Meanwhile, exploration works are being undertaken by other potential producers such as Akiira Geothermal and African Geothermal International Ltd (AGIL), while Mauritius-based Quantum and Kenyan firm Sosian Energy are in the development stage.
Below is a full list of geothermal plants in Kenya:
- Olkaria I (unit 1 – 3)
Olkaria I (unit 1 – 3) is the first geothermal power plant constructed in Kenya at Olkaria fields, Naivasha over 40 years ago.
The power plant uses single-flash steam technology. Each unit of the plant has a capacity of 15MW, meaning the three units (1-3) have a total of 45MW.
The first unit was commissioned in 1981, followed by the second unit a year later. The last unit came on board in 1985. The power plant is owned and operated by KenGen.
Olkaria I unit 1, constructed in 1981, was scheduled for decommissioning in 2019 but KenGen has decided to rehabilitate it, alongside the other two units whose decommissioning was due in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
- Olkaria I unit 4-5 (Olkaria 1AU)
In 2014, two further units with a net capacity of 70MW each and manufactured by Japanese firm Toshiba were commissioned in Olkaria East. The power complex is owned and operated by KenGen.
- Olkaria II
Olkaria II is also owned and operated by KenGen. The power plant has a capacity of 105MW.
It was commissioned in 2003 and is due for decommissioning in 2031, a lifespan of 28 years.
- Olkaria III unit 1-6 (OrPower4 Steam I)
Olkaria III (unit 1-6) was commissioned in 2000 with installed contracted capacity of 48MW and is equipped with binary steam cycle technology. It’s due for decommissioning in 2029, a lifespan of 29 years.
The Olkaria III unit 1-6 is owned and operated by OrPower4, a subsidiary of American firm Ormat Technologies Inc., and is the first private geothermal power plant in Kenya.
- Olkaria III unit 7-9 (OrPower4 Steam II+III)
In 2013 and 2014 further 62MW geothermal power was put into operation by American firm Orpower4, an independent power producer. The Olkaria III unit 7-9 geothermal power plant is located next to Olkaria III- unit 1-6. It is also equipped with a binary steam cycle technology and is due for decommissioning in 2034.
- Olkaria IV
Olkaria IV was commissioned in 2014. It comprises two 70MW generating units manufactured by Toshiba. KenGen owns and operates the facility.
- Olkaria V
Belonging to KenGen, Olkaria V has a total installed capacity of 165.4MW. It has two units, each 82.7MW and is the most the recent geothermal addition, having come on stream in 2019.
The Eburru wellhead geothermal power plant was constructed by Civicon Ltd and is owned and operated by KenGen. It was commissioned in 2012. The power plant is located next to the Ol Doinyo Eburru Volcano, about 11km northeast of Lake Naivasha. It is equipped with single-flash steam cycle technology providing 2.2MW electricity to the national grid.
- Olkaria wellheads
KenGen operates several single flash steam wellheads in the Olkaria steam belt. The first wellhead station was commissioned in 2012 and has a contracted effective capacity of 2.2 MW. More mobile wellheads were put into operation in 2014 with an effective capacity of 12.8MW. In 2015, additional wellheads were commissioned. Their net capacity is 37.8 MW. Additional 20MW was commissioned in 2016.
- OrPower wellhead 4
The wellhead geothermal power plant is owned and operated by the IPP OrPower 4 since its commissioning in 2015. The power plant is located in the Olkaria West sector. As typical for Orpower 4, it is equipped with binary standalone technology. The contracted capacity is 24MW.