Globeleq Gets To Work On Kenya Geothermal Plant

The project is set to reach financial close within the next two to three weeks.

By Liz Bains on
12th June 2023

Construction of Kenya’s 35MW Menengai geothermal project in Nakuru County got under way on 8 June, with a ground-breaking ceremony attended by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and other high-level government officials.

Project developer Globeleq said it expects the US$108 million plant to reach financial close within the next two to three weeks. Fully committed financing agreements were signed in December 2022 with the African Development Bank, the Eastern and Southern African Trade & Development Bank and Finland's Finnfund. 

Globeleq is 70% owned by British International Investment and 30% by Norfund.

Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corporation is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project, and Fuji Electric is manufacturing and supplying the steam turbine and generator. The plant is expected to begin commercial operations in 2025.

Steam will be supplied to the plant by the state-owned Geothermal Development Company (GDC), under a 25-year project implementation and steam supply agreement. Once the plant is operational, electricity will be sold to Kenya Power, the national distribution company, under a power purchase agreement.

The plant forms part of the 105MW first phase of the wider Menengai project, which aims to monetise the available steam resources from the Menengai geothermal field. 

Three geothermal Independent Power Projects (IPPS) are planned for the initial phase, each with a capacity of 35MW. The first project, developed by the local Sosian Energy, is expected to start commercial operations later this month. The third plant is due to be built by the US’ Orpower 22.

The long-term aim is to develop 465MW of power generating capacity over five phases. 

GDC has already built the 25km steam gathering system to collect steam from 13 geothermal wells and deliver it to the power plants. Kenya Electricity Transmission Company has constructed power evacuation facilities including a substation and a 132kV overhead transmission line.

The development of the IPPs has been frustrated with delays in securing financing.

Deputy President Gachagua said at the ceremony, “The Kenya administration is determined to push further [with geothermal] as one of the measures of transitioning from fossil fuels to green energy in our bid to combat the negative effects of climate change. Green energy is also affordable. A factor that will significantly bring down the cost of energy for our domestic consumers.”

He said the cost of electricity from the Globeleq plant would be 7 US cents a kilowatt hour.

Power demand in Kenya is growing by 3.1% a year. Green energy currently meets about 87.4% of demand, with geothermal accounting for 45.5%.

On 30 May, GDC issued a request for proposals for establishing direct-use geothermal-powered investments at the Menengai field. The examples given of possible investments included agricultural projects such as greenhouse heating, aquaculture, milk pasteurisation and the drying of crops, and heavy and energy-intensive industrial manufacturing schemes requiring heat and electricity. Companies have until 3 July to submit their proposals.

Photo: Ground-breaking ceremony (Twitter @Globeleq)

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