Addis Fortune -- Following the signing of a bilateral relation agreement between Ethiopia and Iceland on January 2008 to explore geothermal power potential in the rift valley region, a team of experts from Reykjavik are to engage in a bilateral geothermal survey.
It would be too early to talk about the project cost, said Sendeku Araya, public relations division Head at the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporations (EEPCo).
“Ethiopia has an estimated potential of 1000mw of power from geothermal energy located in the rift region,” ambassador Svavar Gestsson, especial envoy to the ministry of foreign affairs, told Fortune. He said the exact potential would be known after the actual study is conducted.
The preliminary agreement between Ethiopia and Iceland is expected to be reached in a month time, according to the ambassador.
Iceland’s Minister for Industry, Energy and Tourism Osur Scarper Dinson (PhD) visited Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on April 11, 2008 and agreed on the technical support that Ethiopia could get from the geothermal energy production.
The feasibility study has to be carried out first, though a prior study conducted by Ethiopian Geological Survey hinted that geothermal possibilities have already been detected in Afar, in the Fentale and Aluto Langano areas of the rift region.
“If the project starts as scheduled, it would be completed in three years as the country is using fast-track approach,” Alemayehu Tegenu minister of Mines and Energy (MoME) told Fortune.
The fast-track approach is extending the working hours to 24 a day from the normal eight hours of operation.
The experts coming from Iceland will give technical assistance to Ethiopia, including maintenance of obsolete drilling plants at EGS, according to Alemayehu Tegenu.
Iceland is also searching for geothermal sources in Djibouti, where the feasibility was completed with the whole project expected to be ended by 2011. The potential there was discovered to be 50 mw.
Iceland, which has many years of experience using geothermal energy, gets about 27pc of its power from geothermal sources, which is renewable, clean and environment friendly, according to energy experts.
The project will be executed by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) with the support of the Ethiopian Geological Survey (EGS), which is equipped with drilling plants.
Geothermal drilling requires digging three kilometres down.
Ethiopia has the largest portion of the rift system that stretches 1500kms, and the potential of geothermal power is expected to be even more than previously thought, according to the minister.
The current utilization of geothermal energy in the country is around 17mw.
The government of the United Nations and government of Iceland recently trained twenty three Ethiopian engineers for six months in Iceland, covering most aspects of geothermal exploration and sustainable development.
Iceland is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of geothermal energy use. Iceland generates nearly all of its electricity from renewable sources: about 73pc from hydropower and virtually the remainder from geothermal power. Geothermal sources are also used to heat 87pc of the households in Iceland.