Category Archives: Naivasha

Kengen the Geothermal Powerhouse

Kenya is the only African country that has successfully tapped the green energy potential of geothermal power and is ranked number eight in the world. Kenya’s 676MW geothermal output trails that of the USA (3,567MW) Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, and ahead of Iceland, and Japan.

The bulk of this geothermal power comes from the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (Kengen) which supplies 1.6GW (80%) of the country’s 2.3GW electricity output. Of that 533MW is from geothermal energy, primarily from the Olkaria area near Naivasha, where the first wells were dug in 1950 and their deployment and production accelerated after 2007.

Kengen has 294 drilled walls with an 80% success rate, and part of that leap has been due to a Kengen-pioneered “wellhead technology”, which was done in partnership with Green Energy, an Icelandic company. Wellhead technology allows Kengen to tap steam energy within a year or two of sinking a well and recoup their investments faster (it usually costs $6 million to dig a well). In all, Kengen generates 75MW from 7 wellhead stations at Olkaria and one at Eburu.

Kengen’s Olkaria IV geothermal power plant.

In terms of electricity generation, Kengen plans to have supply stay ahead of demand especially considering the long setup time for energy plants (about seven years). With funds raised from shareholders and investors in 2016, they plan to add 1,000 MW to reach 1,745MW by the year 2025.

Kenya has an estimated 10,000 MW of geothermal power potential, and geothermal steam allows high energy demand manufacturing such as steel, cement and glass processing take place. These are currently hampered by the high costs of electricity, but the separation processes of geothermal gases means that such companies can tap steam to use at their factories nearby and this is the strategy behind a planned Kengen industrial park at Olkaria, Naivasha. Already Oserian Flowers buys steam and pipes it to heat their greenhouses in the nearby area.

As at  June 2017, Kengen had a diversified mix of installed energy sources comprising Hydro 818 MW (including Masinga 40 MW , Kamburu 94.2MW, Gitaru 225MW, Kindaruma 72MW, Kiambere 168MW, Turkwel 106MW,  Sondu 60MW,  Sangoro 21.2MW, Tana 20MW), Geothermal 534 MW (Olkaria I 45 MW, Olkaria II 105MW, Olkaria IV 149.8MW, Olkaria I AU 150.5MW), Thermal 253.5 MW (Kipevu I 73.5MW, Kipevu III 120MW, gas turbines 60MW) and wind power 25.5MW (three phases at Ngong Hills).

Kenya has a liberated energy production market, and other private sector players in the geothermal sector who are seeking support under a private-public partnership program include Sosian Power, Quantum Power, and Akiira, as wells as Africa Geothermal and Orpower who are close by Kengen’s fields at Olkaria.

Banker’s Holiday

Have not left Nairobi this year, and the stink of the heat is getting to me.

The office had a retreat this weekend and they picked Naivasha for the trip. It’s a working holiday, but I need the re-charge so am taking the trip. Feel so re-charged, thoughts are running

Raila Should Resign: This is not a political statement, it’s a logical one. Our destination today is Lake Naivasha, which is surrounded by resort hotels and flower farms (big exports of Kenya) and the road from Naivasha town is a 10-kilometre long pothole full of rocks. Two years into Narc’s term no significant urban or national road has been built, let alone repaired (but when I was in Mombasa in November, I visited some relatives in Shanzu, who showed me the late minister Maitha’s homestead which had got a new and very smooth road when he became a minister – and I assume it’s the same in other ministers and leaders home areas, as these things are expected in Kenya) Raila’s political wars have damaged his relations within government to an extent that there’s no way they (i.e. Finance Minister) will give him cash to build any roads – and which he can use as future election ammunition. So he’s been reduced to making promises about roads to Sudan and Ethiopia that will never be completed. He should step aside now as this will lead to a win-win situation for all – Raila can focus his energies on the Constitution and 2007, he’ll get mileage for being the first minister to resign, and Kenyans will get roads built overnight – as the toadie, politically-correct minister who replaces him will be given all cash and resources to repair all major roads – and to embarrass Raila at the same time. Otherwise, if Kibaki ever wakes up tomorrow and decided to fire ministers’ for non-performance, not many tears would be shed for current Roads minister – Raila

Kenya is Beautiful: Our destination is a Lodge on the shores of Lake Naivasha. The place is a beautiful, expensively done resort, which few Kenyans have ever heard of – It used to be called Safariland Lodge and was previously one of Somaia or Pattni’s properties. The hotel is first class, quite full of tourists, pricey (rooms are about 10k($130)/night), – so they probably don’t have to market themselves to Kenyans. Of the 8 satellite TV channels, 3 are in Hindi.

Celeb Watch: Glanced at the visitor’s book while at the reception, which was signed by one Kamlesh M. Pattni (Paul) two days before I arrived. He has acquired one bad habit that our parliamentarians have – while hotel guest sign and comment on a single line of the visitor’s book, MP’s – like Wekesa, Wetangula, Uhuru, Ruto, Godana, Njoki, Kiraitu – all sign an entire page of the visitors’ book, making their rhetorical lame comments on the hotel service visible to all.

I want to be Minister: I’d never have visited this resort and paid out of my pocket, but the company is paying – so am here. I now realise the beauty of being a Kenyan cabinet minister. You acquire mysterious wealth, people forget briefcases of cash in your office, you have all your bills paid for (limousine, bodyguards, house, cell phone, fuel, other benefits), you get a bonus every two years for being loyal to your boss, and most important whenever you need to go on holiday, there’s always someone (taxpayer or lobbyist) willing to pay you for that (first-class accommodation & airfare, daily pocket allowances)

Blog-less: There was so much to write about over the weekend, but I’ll have to wait till mid-week. The hotel has no internet access, though I did see one complaint (4 pages long) by a French tourist in the visitor’s book – he was mad about the room& dining service, he hadn’t seen a hippo during his stay, his bathroom floor was wet, and he was charged $1 for two minutes internet access.

Dumbest Move: Going swimming alone after sunset in the Hotel Pool – swimming in the deep end, I forgot that I had my glasses on and they sunk to the bottom of the pool. I had to spend 15 minutes searching the bottom of the pool until the pool boy was called – he found my glasses after about 3 dives.

Best move: Taking a one-hour boat-ride across Lake Naivasha. Saw dozens of hippo herds and birds, and learnt so much about life around the beautiful lake from our boat pilot. One day, Kenyans will stop building houses in shags, and they will come and build waterfront houses around Lake Naivasha.

Overall: Was a great weekend with beautiful sight, despite some office politics. I even came up with an idea for a new company – hopefully, it will provide my retirement package in 30 years – then I can return here.

Speed Trap in Naivasha

Anyone driving to Nakuru should be aware that there is a speed trap. It’s situated just before Naivasha as you descend on the last section of good road (many people cruise at above 140 Kmh) You have to pay a bond of Kshs 3,000 (not a bribe) to enable you to continue with your journey, otherwise your car will be impounded and you will go to jail till your case is heard. The operation is manned by a special police unit (not Naivasha cops) and if you live in the US or Canada, check out speedtrap.org for speed traps in your area.