Kenya is winning the African race for geothermal energy pretty handily

It has helped Kenya mitigate the effects of drought that resulted in lower water levels and depressed hydropower generation.

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Kenya has been ranked third globally in geothermal energy capacity and number one in Africa by the Renewables Global Status report, 2017.

This is after Kenya added an additional steam power of 29 megawatts (MW) last year on its national grid.

“Kenya completed a 29 MW addition at the Olkaria III complex in 2016, increasing the facility’s capacity to 139 MW.  At year’s end, Kenya’s total operating capacity was about 630 MW,” the report says.

As a result, Kenya improved one position from last year’s rankings when it added 20 MW to the grid in 2015 to emerge fourth.

Globally, Indonesia added the largest geothermal capacity of 205 MW in 2016 followed by Turkey (additional 197 MW), Kenya and Mexico (16 MW).

In Africa, Ethiopia is the only other African nation that has developed geothermal energy (7 MW).

“Ethiopia shares the geothermal riches of the Great Rift Valley with Kenya, but limited development has occurred to date, with about 7 MW in place,”  the report says.

Kenya has in recent years invested heavily in diversifying its energy sources in a bid to be energy reliant.

Early this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta broke ground for the construction of the Olkaria V power project which is expected to produce 158 MW of electricity once completed.

“That this form of energy is not subject to the vagaries of the weather, and that it runs at a respectable rate more than 90% of the time every year, means that we can bring reliable power to every Kenyan home,” Uhuru said during the ceremony.

Geothermal is seen as an attractive low-cost renewable energy source with low emissions and serves as a stable, reliable base-load electricity for the East African Nation.

At 630 MW, geothermal now accounts for 27.3 per cent of Kenya’s total power capacity of about 2,300 MW, comprising hydropower and thermal energy.

Apart from Geothermal energy Kenya has also invested heavily in green energy and in April 2017, Kenya’s first large-scale solar park took shape after two Kenyan firms received a Sh164 million grant from Barack Obama for generation of geothermal and solar electricity.

Kenya also contracted Vestas in 2012 to construct the largest wind power farm in Africa located in the country's North-East region at a cost of $694 million.

Lake Turkana Wind Power is in its final stages and is expected to produce 310MW of power.

Though Kenya improved in geothermal expansion, it slid one spot in the overall rankings to emerge as the ninth largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world.

The United States is the world’s top geothermal producer with an installed capacity of 3,600 MW — nearly six times Kenya’s output — followed by Philippines (1,900 MW), Indonesia (1,600 MW) and New Zealand (1,000 MW).

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