China secures contract to build and operate geothermal plants in Kenya

Geothermal power is one of the cheapest and most reliable sources of energy.

Kaishan Group, the largest Chinese manufacturer of rock drilling equipment has secured the green light to drill steam wells in the Suswa south-Magadi-Shompole steam fields, in Narok County.

The group made the disclosure in its regulatory filings at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and was reported by Chinese newspaper Global Times.

According to the company, the licence grants it the leeway to sink exploration wells in the area for up to three years and subsequently proceed to construct and operate power plants.

Currently, US-based Ormat Technologies is the only private investor that owns and operates geothermal power plants in Kenya through subsidiary Orpower.

Kenya is among powerhouses in the world in terms of power generations.

Kenya is currently ranked the ninth largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world and the leader in Africa with a capacity of 630 megawatts, according to Renewables Global Status report 2017.

The State-owned power producer KenGen runs a number of steam power plants.

In Kenya, the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) is mandated to drill exploration wells in search of steam on behalf of investors to derisk the venture before handing the steam wells to power producers who pay for the steam, in return.

Geothermal power is one of the cheapest and more reliable sources of energy in the long run despite coming with heavy upfront costs due to the expensive drilling of wells to tap steam underground.

It costs about $5 million (Sh515 million) to generate one megawatt of geothermal power, according to experts.

A steam well takes about 60 days to drill, reaching depths of up to 3.5 kilometres.

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