Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Kenyan Hot Rocks. -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

The ABC acknowledges the provision of free goods and services by the not-for-profit organisation,
The Crawford Fund, which promotes and supports international agricultural research and development.

Dr Paul Willis

This is a great African Rift Valley where the whole continent is being torn into two pieces. Now it
takes a lot of energy to rip up a continent so here's an idea, can some of that energy be harnessed
for the good of the African people?

NARRATION

Yes it can!

Cyrus Karingithi

Right now we are generating about one hundred and fifty megawatts, the potential is about seven
thousand megawatts.

Darryl Judkins

There's going to be a huge expansion in geothermal in the world. It's a green energy resource, it's
basically renewable it's very, very low environment impact.

NARRATION

This is the Olkaria II geothermal power station near Lake Navasha in the Kenyan Rift Valley. Here
heat from deep within the earth is turned into electricity.

Cyrus Karingithi

The crust here is between six and eight kilometres. And you have what we call enormous heat flow
movement.

NARRATION

The principle is pretty straight forward, water percolates into the ground where it heats up. These
guys tap off the steam and turn it into electricity. The reality's a bit more complicated than
that...

Cyrus Karingithi

All that is required is for you to drill the wells. Each well costs you about between five and six
million US dollars.

Dr Paul Willis

Wow. And how many wells do you need to run one plant?

Cyrus Karingithi

If you have one hundred and forty megawatt power plant you have to divide that by five. The average
output from each of the wells is about five megawatts.

Dr Paul Willis

So you need about twenty-eight?

Cyrus Karingithi

You, you need to acquire twenty-eight, twenty-eight wells.

NARRATION

You might think that this is an unlimited source of energy.

Dr Paul Willis

So what actually limits the production of energy from a field like this? I mean you're not going to
run out of steam? Would you?

Cyrus Karingithi

No. All that you need is money.

Dr Paul Willis

But then once you've set that up there's no ongoing costs?

Cyrus Karingithi

That's it. No the, the operations and maintenance costs is minimal for the next twenty-five years.

Dr Paul Willis

Regardless of how you do the figures and what the economics actually turns out to be a geothermal
plants like this has two distinct advantages. Firstly compared to a coal fired power station
running this place produces no greenhouse gas. And compared to other forms of alternative energy
this place can actually produce base load power.

NARRATION

For Kenya, there are other advantages.

Cyrus Karingithi

Number one geothermal is indigenous that means we don't have to buy the fuel and number two it is a
clean form of energy, it is renewable

NARRATION

The technology itself is pretty straight forward.

Darryl Judkins

This plant uses a, a steam turbine which is like a conventional steam turbine but with some
specific requirements for geothermal service.

NARRATION

The biggest technological problem stems from the gasses that come out of the ground along with the
hot water.

Darryl Judkins

A big thing is corrosion, we are dealing with fluids which contain some hydrogen sulphide which
then forms sulphuric acids in some parts of the plant.

NARRATION

Geothermal power in the Rift Valley isn't just used to pump electrical power into the national
grid. It also supports an enormous flower growing industry. This one farm alone ships out one
million flowers a week, most destined for the European market.

And with geothermal power heating the glass houses and providing the electricity, these flowers
will have a carbon footprint around one sixth that of growing the same flower in Europe. And that's
including air-freighting the flowers thousands of kilometres.

Geothermal power has transformed this previously underdeveloped area of central Kenya.

Cyrus Karingithi

It is wonderful to drive through in the morning and find you have a new power plant and you have a
new well discharging, it is the greatest feeling you can ever get. It makes me feel very proud.

Topics: Others

Reporter: Dr Paul Willis

Producer: Dr Paul Willis

Researcher: Roslyn Lawrence

Camera: Kevin May

Sound: Steve Ravich

Editor: Chris Spurr

Story Contacts

Cyrus Karingithi

Geochemist and Assistant Manager

KenGen Electricity Generating Company

Darryl Judkins

Mechanical Engineer and Project Manager

Olkaria II Unit 3 Geothermal Power Project

Related Info

Details about the Olkaria II Geothermal Plant

Some recent developments in Kenyan geothermal power generation