Sosian set to be first IPP to tap geothermal and sell electricity

By Caroline Chebet | Jun 09, 2023
Sosian energy Director Kigen Moi  (center) flanked by staff at the company located  at Menengai crater in Nakuru county on June 8, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A local Independent Power Producing (IPP) Company is set to commission 35 megawatts of electricity from the Menengai geothermal wells by July this year.

Sosian Energy, undertaking its operations in Menengai Caldera in Nakuru under a Public-Private Partnership, is expected to inject 35MW of electricity to the national grid in phases. Sosian Energy Director Kigen Moi yesterday said the first phase will see 22MW of power being injected into the national grid by the end of this month.

“We have been able to beat the deadline to deliver the project on time. This is no mean feat and is a demonstration that our local companies can deliver in terms of excellence and operating within timelines,” Kigen said while inspecting the power plant at Menengai.

The investment is part of the government’s efforts to harness geothermal energy from the Menengai crater.

“We expect this will have an impact on the national grid and an effect on the cost of tariffs, which might now become cheaper and finally have a ripple effect on the cost of living,” Kigen added.

The development of the Menengai geothermal field started in 2009, with the goal of harnessing 465MW of geothermal steam, also in phases. The drilling of the first well started in February 2011.

Initially, the project is expected to produce 105 megawatts, a project in which three independent power producers - Sosian Energy, Globeleq and OR Power 22 - were contracted by GDC.

In the project, each of the three IPPs is required to finance, design, construct and install, operate and maintain a 35MW power plant for a period of 25 years.

GDC supplies the steam to the power plants for conversion to electricity.

Sosian lead contractor Moses Rotich said the drive to deliver the project on time has been commendable.

“We started the project in November 2021 and it has been an interesting journey. Our first year majorly entailed putting in the documentation and licensing after which we embarked on the project. We are happy as local contractors that we have delivered this project satisfactorily and on time,” said Rotich.

Besides generating power and pushing the country’s green agenda, Sosian Energy Liaison Officer Philemon Kimeli said part of the firm’s aim was to improve livelihoods of communities residing around the caldera.

“This project has been beneficial to the local communities because it is a local company employing local people and also engaging in activities that are geared at promoting livelihoods,” said Kimeli.

According to GDC Managing Director Paul Ngugi, the Menengai power project is unique compared to other geothermal development projects previously constructed in the country because it used a Private Public Partnership model.

In the partnership, GDC owns and develops steam and supplies it to the producers who convert thermal energy in the steam to electric energy and sell the electricity to Kenya Power.

And while the country races to achieve its targets of fully transiting to renewable energy by 2030, geothermal energy remains one of the viable sources that the country can harness.

While hydropower also remains a prospect, the prolonged droughts the country experiences often, experts say, limits its reliance.

Kenya has a vast geothermal potential estimated at 10,000MW. Currently, geothermal energy contributes up to 49 per cent of the energy consumed in the country and is expected that it will continue to contribute to the future energy mix. 

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