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Steam Could Power E. Africa’s Electricity Needs

Hot Steam Could Help Power East Africa’s Electricity Needs, Says UN Environment Agency

East Africa is set to get a natural boost next year by tapping into the sizeable reservoir of geothermal energy in its Rift Valley, according to a statement released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The agency announced that its project in Kenya testing new seismic and drilling technology has exceeded all expectations by hitting wells of steam able to generate four to five megawatts, and in one case a massive eight megawatts, of electricity.

This could lead to an estimated saving of as much as $75 million for the developer of a 70 megawatt installation as well as reduced electricity costs for generators and consumers, UNEP said in a press release.

Speaking at the latest round of UN climate change talks under way in Poznan, Poland, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that delivering electricity to the two billion people without access, while at the same time combating global warming, is critical challenge facing the world.

Geothermal energy is “100 per cent indigenous, environmentally-friendly and a technology that has been under-utilized for too long,” he added.

The results of the project backed by the UN and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have paved the way for an international effort next year to expand geothermal operations up and down the Rift which runs from Mozambique in the South to Djibouti in the North.

With at least 4,000 megawatts of electricity ready to be harvest along the Rift Valley, “it is time to take this technology off the back burner in order to power livelihoods, fuel development and reduce dependence on polluting and unpredictable fossil fuels,” Mr. Steiner noted.

“From the place where human-kind took its first faltering steps is emerging one of the answers to its continued survival on this planet.”

As a result of the almost $1 million UNEP-GEF project, the number of wells likely to be needed to achieve 70 megawatts could be 15 versus over 30 using the previous technology, potentially saving as much as $5 million for each well drilled.

Kenya has set a goal of generating 1,200 megawatts from geothermal energy by 2015.


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