Sunday, April 24, 2005

Kenya Looks Underground for Power

Hot water geyser
Photo courtesy: BBC News

On a chilly hilltop high above Kenya's Rift Valley, Jackson Chipyagon, 40, chops up wood to keep a small fire smouldering outside his shack.

Modern amenities like electricity have not yet reached his home. But even if he had power, he is not sure how useful it would be.

"Sure, we want electricity," he says.

"But it's expensive for us. We only have meagre earnings. So even if we get electricity, it's hard to afford it."

Mr Chipyagon's farm overlooks Africa's Rift Valley, a giant fissure in the earth's crust running 6,000 miles from Lebanon to Mozambique. The plumes of escaping steam, and bubbling lakes, hint of volcanic turmoil beneath the surface.

Experts from the United Nations say if this geothermal energy were harnessed, it could provide power to some of the world's poorest nations.

Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, even Zambia have the potential to tap in. But so far, Kenya is the only nation which has made headway.

Some 200 kilometres from Mr Chipyagon's farm is the Hell's Gate National Park, with its strange rock formations and spouts of hissing steam.

But even stranger is the mixture of wilderness and industrialisation.

But the fumes belching from the chimneys are not polluting petrochemical smoke. They are eco-friendly water vapour, which drifts off into the blue sky.

The Ol Karia station is the continent's biggest geothermal power-generating plant. It takes its name from a nearby volcano, which erupted 150 years ago and is still active.

There are 22 wells across the site, piercing the earth's crust, and tapping into molten rock as hot as 345C, deep below the surface.

Water pumped into the well produces steam, which powers the turbines.


1 comment:

Conservation Terms said...

Wow! A new source of energy. As a conservationist, I think this would be a great source of energy. You don't have to construct dams, or cause harmful emmisions.