Geothermal In Kenya With U.S. Technology

Here’s another story where the United States is angling to create jobs at home by encouraging renewable energy development abroad, much like we saw here recently. This news comes courtesy the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a self-sustaining tentacle of the U.S. government.

OPIC said it is loaning $310 million to a U.S. company that will use “environmentally friendly American technology” to add 52 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity to the existing 48-MW Olkaria geothermal plant in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The company is OrPower 4, a subsidiary of Ormat Technologies – the Nevada company we’ve heard about recently for its big geothermal projects in the Silver State.

geothermal power in Kenya, Ormat

image via Ormat Technologies

According to OPIC, boosting the generating capacity of the Olkaria plant, 75 miles northwest of Nairobi, will require modifying some aspects of the current plant, adding to its steam gathering and injection systems and developing the geothermal reservoir that will support the expansion. This is all a good thing for Kenya, and good for the United States, OPIC said.

Kenya geothermal, Ormat

image via Ormat Technologies

“Doubling the capacity of this geothermal plant – which emits negligible greenhouse gases and is therefore one of the most environmentally friendly power-generating technologies available – is an important step forward for Kenya’s economic growth, as well as for the global shift to a lower carbon economy,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield. “The fact that the project uses American technology to do so, and creates jobs in both the U.S. and Kenya, makes it a win-win situation for all involved.”

Ormat says it uses a proprietary binary cycle technology in which it re-injects cooled water into the geothermal reservoir, resulting “in minimal impact on the environment from the energy production process and (requiring) limited external water use.” That technology and other aspects of the project are explored in the short Ormat video below.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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