Geothermal resources in Kenya are located within the Rift Valley with an estimated potential of between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW spread over 14 prospective sites. Geothermal has numerous advantages over other sources of power: it is not affected by drought and climatic variability; has the highest availability (capacity factor) at over 95 %; is green energy with no adverse effects on the environment; and is indigenous and readily available in Kenya, unlike most thermal energy that relies on imported fuel. This makes geothermal a very suitable source for baseload electricity generation in the country.

Installed geothermal energy capacity

Related Renewable Energy Technologies

Technology Background

Sources of energy in the world are derived from either the direct effects of the sun’s activities or from the activities of the earth. Be it wind, solar photovoltaic, nuclear, hydro or fossil fuel energy, there is a direct involvement of the sun or the earth. Geothermal energy falls under the category of energy sources that are derived from the earth. As evidenced by the name, geothermal energy is the type of energy obtained from the heat that is found beneath the earth. This energy can be tapped from the earth in form of hot water or steam, at varying temperatures. Geothermal energy can only be harnessed from geothermal resources. These resources are reservoirs of hot water and steam, situated at varying depths below the earth surface. Geothermal energy can be used for generation of electricity, for district heating applications in cold countries and for thermal duty applications in industries. The geothermal sources are classified under green energy. When one megawatt hour of geothermal power is used to replace one megawatt hour of coal-fired power plant, there is an offset of approximately one ton of carbon dioxide gas emissions.

Status of the technology in Kenya

In Kenya, it is estimated that there is about 7000 to 10 000 megawatts (thermal) untapped geothermal energy beneath the Rift Valley region. This energy is thought to be located in fourteen prospective sites. These prospects have been divided, for administrative purposes, into north, south and central rift geothermal fields. The exploration of geothermal energy in Kenya began in 1957 by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). This was taken up by Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). Currently, the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) carries out the exploration of geothermal sources.

GDC is a 100% state-owned corporation established in 2008 as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), to de-risk the commercial development of geothermal resources in Kenya: both for electricity generation and direct use applications. The specific roles include: geothermal resource exploration and assessment; drilling of geothermal wells; development and management of proven steam-fields; early generation and sale of steam to power producers and promotion of direct utilization of geothermal resources. The company is also mandated to support the Government of Kenya (GoK) in resource mobilization and capacity building through the Ministry of Energy (MoE).

Until now, geothermal resource surface exploration and assessment has been undertaken in a number of fields including; Menengai, Baringo-Silali, Suswa, Mwananyamala, Homa Hills, Barrier, Nyambene Hills and Chyulu hills. Further to this, Olkaria, Menengai and Baringo-Silali wells have been drilled with fifty-nine (59) geothermal production wells successfully developed in Olkaria geothermal field. Drilling at Menengai and Baringo-Silali is in progress with a cumulative of fifty-one (51) geothermal wells drilled and approximately 170 MWe equivalent of steam already identified for power generation.

Table: Fields identified and their status of development

ProspectLocationReconnaissanceSurface ExploitationWells SitedWells Drilled
Olkaria domesNakuru CountyCompleteComplete33
LongonotNakuru CountyCompleteComplete3Not done
SuswaNarok/Nakuru CountyCompleteCompleteNot doneNot done
MenengaiNakuru CountyCompleteCompleteDone49
BadlandsNakuru CountyCompletePartialNot doneNot done
Lake MagadiKajiado CountyCompleteNot doneNot doneNot done
ArusBaringo CountyCompleteCompleteNot doneNot done
Lake BogoriaBaringo CountyCompleteNot doneNot doneNot done
Lake BaringoBaringo CountyCompleteComplete1Not done
KorosiBaringo CountyCompleteComplete3Not done
PakaBaringo CountyCompleteComplete32
SilaliTurkana/Baringo CountyCompleteComplete1Not done
Homa HillsHoma Bay CountyCompleteCompleteNot doneNot done
MwananyamalaKwale CountyCompletePartialNot doneNot done
EmuruangogolakTurkana CountyCompleteNot doneNot doneNot done
NamarunuTurkana CountyCompleteNot doneNot doneNot done
BarrierTurkana CountyCompleteCompleteDoneNot done
NyambeneMeru CountyCompletePartialNot doneNot done
Chyulu HillsMakueni CountyCompleteNot doneNot doneNot done
Geothermal Resource Map

Table: Geothermal plants in Kenya (installed and expected)

StationLicenseeCommissioned yearInstalled capacityStatus
Olkaria IKenGenUnit 1 (1981)3*15MWGeneration and Production drilling
Unit 2 (1982)2*70MW
Unit 3 (1985)-
Unit 4 (2014)Total = 185MW
Unit 5 (2015)-
Unit 6 (exp. 2021)-
Olkaria IIKenGenUnit 1 (2003)3*35MWGeneration and production drilling
Unit 2 (2003)-
Unit 3 (2010)Total = 105MW
Olkaria IIIOrpower4Unit 1 (2000)13MW + 35 MWGeneration and production drilling
Unit 2 (2009)36MW
Unit 3 (2014)26MW
Unit 4 (2016)29MW
Total = 136MW
Olkaria IVKenGen2014140MWGeneration and production drilling
Olkaria VKenGen2019 (expected)2*79MWGeneration and production drilling
Total = 158MW
Olkaria IVKenGen2021 (expected)140MWSurface exploration and production drilling
SuswaCYRQ Energy2024 (expected)2*37.5MWSurface exploration and production drilling
Total = 330MW
EburruKenGenUnit 1 (2012)2.5MWGeneration and Pilot generation
Unit 2 (2019, expected)22.5MW
Total 25MW
AkiraAGL2022 (expected)1*70MWExploration and surface studies
OserianODCL20032.5MWProduction under steam sale
LongonotAGIL2019 (expected)140MWProduction drilling
Bogoria-SilaliGDC2021 (expected)200MWProduction drilling
MenengaiGDC2020 (expected)3*35MWProduction and exploration drilling
Total = 105MW
GDC: Geothermal Development Company
AGIL: African Geothermal International Limited
KenGen: Kenya Electricity Generating Company
ODCL: Oserian Development Company Limited
AGL: Akiira Geothermal Limited
Legal and regulatory framework

Development of geothermal energy facilities is governed by the Energy Act ( 2019) among other laws. The interested investor has to clear with the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Kenya Power, Kenya Forest Service, County Government and Ministry of Energy. The clearance information is located at the websites of the respective bodies.