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Japan, Kenya ties boost expertise for geothermal projects

By Johnson Nchoe | August 31st 2019

The just-concluded Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) in Yokohama, Japan, offered African countries a new impetus towards development. The forum takes stock of past action plans and explores and designs strategic future engagements between Japan and Africa. To us in the geothermal sector, this relationship is as practical and beneficial as it can get.

Indeed, Japan, through its development arm, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), has been instrumental in the development of geothermal energy in Kenya. The Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has profoundly benefited from the Japanese technical support through capacity building of our scientists and engineers.

In 2014, Jica initiated the programme: Project for capacity strengthening for geothermal development in Kenya. About 500 GDC technical staff have gained from this scheme, which involved hands-on training in Kenya and Japan. Rcently, a technical team from GDC was in Japan courtesy of Jica, for further capacity building on geothermal drilling technology.

Consequently, our team has developed cutting-edge expertise that will see the country accelerate development and utilisation of geothermal energy.

This year’s Ticad themed “Advancing Africa’s development through people, technology and innovation,” perfectly fits our dynamics at GDC. We take pride in the continuous human capital development, our projects are anchored on technological adoption and improvement too. Importantly though, is the robust innovative spirit as part of the corporate culture that is helping us revolutionise how geothermal is developed and consumed in this country.

Lest we forget, the future of the planet and the country is pegged on renewables. Kenya has made major strides in this front through wind, solar and geothermal, which is our anchor energy.

This year’s Ticad is taking place at a crucial time of our national development as we seek to redefine our future geared towards manufacturing. The manufacturing dream will definitely be powered by geothermal energy, which we at GDC are aggressively developing.

Kenya is on the cusp of a geothermal revolution. At GDC, we are ready to roll out the 105MW Menengai Geothermal Project power plants. Three IPPs are enlisted to develop 35 MW each. Beyond Menengai, there is the massive Baringo Silali geothermal project boasting a potential of about 3000MW.

Since it is geothermal energy that will power the future of Kenya, we are taking keen interest in our partnership that builds the technical expertise critical in exploiting and developing geothermal in Kenya.

Japan’s geothermal industry is advanced. It has excelled in research and innovation covering the entire spectrum of geothermal development including power generation, manufacture of equipment including power turbines. That is why our Kenyan youth at GDC are lucky to have accessed that tech-knowhow.

But then, there is more to geothermal than electricity.

If you tap the heat of the geothermal steam you can easily heat green houses for horticulture and dramatically cut the cost of production by about 40 per cent. The heat is also king for industrial heating of boilers. Investors in dairy, grain drying, drying of vegetables, tea, pyrethrum, have a great opportunity to reduce their production costs, and even create more employment.

At the Menengai Geothermal Project, we have successfully piloted projects on utilsation of geothermal heat for milk pasteurisation, heating green houses, aquaponds and for laundry. This once extrapolated at industrial scale will robustly transform the manufacturing landscape. This is the scenario we want for Kenya. It is the scenario that Jica and GDC are endeavoring to construct for posterity.

- Eng Nchoe is the Managing Director & CEO, Geothermal Development Company. [email protected]


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