Photo Courtesy Emerging Infrastructure Fund.
One of the six Ormat Energy Converter units comprising the Olkaria Geothermal Plant is pictured.


Kenya's largest geothermal power project has broken ground, with Japan's Toyota Tsusho Corp. and South Korea's Hyundai Engineering serving as the prime contractor.

The project, to be completed by April 2014, will build four additional geothermal power stations with a capacity of 70 MW each at two powerplants, Olkaria I and Olkaria IV, both in Naivasha, 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi. The project’s technical details were drawn by New Zealand’s Sinclair Knight Merz Ltd.

"The contract is a full turnkey contract that includes delivery of an entire set of geothermal powerplant facilities as well as associated civil-engineering construction work," said Toyota Tsusho Corp. in a statement.

Another Japanese firm, Toshiba Corp., the global leader in the manufacture of steam turbines and generators, will supply four sets of steam turbines for the new power stations, the first such contract for the company in Africa.

"Toshiba was selected by Hyundai Engineering to supply the turbines and generators for the project following a comprehensive evaluation of the company's extensive supply experience and the equipment's performance and reliability," the company said upon winning the supply contract.

Olkaria I will be expanded by constructing two new power stations in addition to the existing three, helped by a yen-denominated loan from the Japanese International Development Agency (JICA). Another two stations will be installed at Olkaria IV. The power stations will be fed from the more than 50 wells being drilled by China’s Great Wall Drilling Co. The Chinese company has been awarded a contract to drill at least 127 wells with funding from EXIM Bank of China.

The project is being co-financed by the Kenya Electricity Generating Co. (KenGen), the government of Kenya and a group of financiers that include the European Investment Bank, the France Development Agency and the German Reconstruction Bank.

State-owned KenGen hopes to raise its geothermal generating capacity to 430 MW from the current 163 MW, an equivalent of 25% of the country’s overall power-generating capacity.

Kenya, with an installed capacity of 1,598 MW, relies on hydropower for more than 70% of its power supply. The supply has been unreliable because of unpredictable weather conditions that have made it almost impossible for east Africa's largest economy to meet the 10% annual peak-demand growth rate.

Electricity from the Olkaria geothermal power system will be evacuated through a new 300-km, 220-kV double-circuit transmission line that is currently under construction. The line, being financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency, will link Olkaria to the towns of Lessos and Kisumu.

State-owned Kenya Electricity Transmission Co. will construct the line, which will have a 127-km extension from the town of Lessos to Tororo, located in Uganda, under an agreement between Kenya and Uganda to enhance power transfer capacity between the two neighboring countries. The African Development Bank has agreed to finance the regional trans-boundary transmission line.