Hydro power output low despite downpour

Masinga Dam, the main reservoir for Seven Forks cascade, yet to get full. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

The cost of power in the country is not likely to go down soon as water levels at the Seven Forks hydro stations are still low despite heavy rainfall experienced in parts of the country. 

KenGen engineers are estimating to get maximum levels of water at Masinga Dam, the main reservoir for the Seven Forks hydro station, in the next four months if the current rains continue. 

The last time the dam attained its maximum water levels of 1,057 million cubic metres was in 2018 and the inflow from Tana River was at 800 cubic metres per second compared to the current 200 cubic metres per second. 

KenGen acting Manager Power Generation Eastern Isaac Tarus said Masinga is currently at 1,042 million cubic metres of water, with an inflow of 200 cubic metres per second.

“At its full supply, the level rises to 1056.5 metres and at that point, it spills over but the current water level is 1042.67 which is way below the spillway level. This means we can only fill the dam in four months,” Tarus said. 

He further revealed that Masinga’s minimum operating level is 1,037 cubic metres where they shut down operations to protect the machines from sucking in air that could cause instability to the system.  

“We have reduced operations at Masinga power station which has a capacity of producing 40 megawatts to maximise water storage and reduce the downflow. We have also taken the opportunity to undertake maintenance,” he said. 

Tarus also noted the level at the Masinga dam is rising steadily and acts as a flood control since there is enough space to store the water coming from the Tana River that is fed by several rivers from Murang’a. 

He reiterated that the Masinga station can operate optimally depending on the power demand in the country but currently they are focusing on flood control and storage capacity for dry months anticipated in March, next year. 

Kengen Marketing and Corporate Communications Manager Frank Ochieng observed that the company has undertaken conservation of water flowing into Masinga to ensure the water runs the hydro station installations for longer periods without rains.  

“There is a lot of rainfall around the country but the patterns are that we will have a long dry spell from March and it’s important we manage the available water now for the longer duration, the reason we are minimising use at Masinga and maximising use in lower dams,” Ochieng said. 

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