Power consumers are set for better times following an announcement by the leading energy generator, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), that the 158MW Olkaria V geothermal power plant will be operational next year as scheduled.

The power plant is part of KenGen’s ambitious green energy development agenda aimed at delivering 721MW of renewable energy by the year 2020 at an investment close to Sh135 billion. The project is funded by Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) and the Government of Kenya.

KenGen Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Rebecca Miano, told a news conference the power plant whose construction began in January 2017 and several other green energy projects at different stages of procurement will ensure Kenyans benefit directly from reliable, clean and affordable electricity.

“Our focus is on geothermal energy, which is an eco-friendly, renewable and reliable source that can reduce consumers’ utility costs by up to 50%,” she told a gathering of mainly energy journalists after a tour of the Olkaria V project site in Naivasha.

Mrs. Miano disclosed that manufacturing of the plant’s equipment abroad, mainly in Japan and Germany, is on schedule with several types of equipment already tested in readiness for shipment to Kenya. These include hotwell pumps, vacuum pumps, switchgear and steam pipes.

“A substantial portion of the materials to be incorporated in this project have been sourced locally. These include cement and concrete materials, all reinforcement steel bars, steel beams, all fencing materials,” said Mrs. Miano, adding that all expertise for civil and structural works are handled by local experts.

All earthworks at the project site are complete and the main activity in progress is subsurface ground stabilization by pilling to create a strong foundation. The next site activity will be the construction of concrete foundations for erecting the powerhouse and mounting the generation equipment.

Olkaria V is a Vision 2030 flagship energy project started with the drilling of the geothermal wells to supply the steam to drive the turbines which in turn generate electricity. The drilling of the geothermal wells to supply sufficient steam to run the power plant over its lifespan was completed in 2015.

The power plant’s contractors were procured through international competitive bidding (ICB) using JICA guidelines.

The three contractors are M/s Sinopec Petroleum Services of China (Steam Development); a Japanese consortium comprising of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Mitsubishi Corporation;  and H Young of Kenya (Power Plant); and JV of Sieyuan and NEIE (both of China)

Consultancy Services, fully financed by KenGen, was awarded to a consortium of Steam srl (Italy) and Gesto AG (Portugal).

Olkaria V is part of the company’s revamped Good-to-Great (G2G) strategy, which seeks to diversify and grow its power generation portfolio. KenGen’s current installed capacity is 1631 MW and comprises hydro, thermal, geothermal and wind.

The assurance by KenGen that it is on track to deliver on the project should give electricity consumers comfort that they will be cushioned against the impact of weather vagaries on the domestic and industrial commodity.

The drought has seen water levels at KenGen hydropower plants fall below the minimum operating level.

Unless the country receives sufficient amount of rainfall in the next few weeks, the company will be forced to shut down its hydropower stations, especially the ones in the Eastern region which draw their water from River Tana. The river supplies water to Masinga, Kindaruma, Gitaru, Kiambere power plants.

The current weather forecast indicates that Tana catchment is most likely to experience depressed rainfall while the catchments for Turkwel and Sondu Rivers, which serves Turkwel and Sondu Miriu power plants are most likely to receive near average rainfall.

But as Mrs. Miano said, there is no cause for alarm as the generator is scaling up geothermal and wind energy sources to offset the deficit that will be created by the closure of the dams.

Other green energy development projects at different stages of procurement being undertaken by the energy generator are Olkaria I Unit 6, 70MW, Ngong Wind Phase III 10MW, Olkaria VI PPP 140MW, Olkaria I Rehabilitation 50MW, Olkaria I AU & IV topping plant 40MW, Modular wellheads 50MW, Meru Wind Farm 80MW among others.

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