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Menengai power plant picked to pioneer new geothermal technology

The 35 megawatt (MW) geothermal power plant in Menengai will be the first to benefit from a new technology jointly being developed by global firms, Toshiba Corporation and Ormat Technologies Inc to boost efficiency in energy production from underground steam sources.

The two firms are targeting new design generation systems that will maximise power output from a unit volume of steam.

“A collaboration between globally respected Ormat and Toshiba, bringing together Ormat’s capabilities in developing geothermal projects and its reliable binary equipment and our expertise in geothermal power, notably our highly reliable flash type geothermal steam turbines, offers tremendous potential for delivering comprehensive customer satisfaction” Yoshihiro Aburatani, President and CEO of Toshiba’s Power Systems Company said after the two firms signed a collaboration deal.

Geothermal power plants generally use either a binary or a conventional flash system, or a combination of both. The technology deployed for each project is based on the unique characteristics of the geothermal resource.

In flash power plants, water heated under pressure is separated into steam and hot water and the steam is used to turn turbines to generate power. The liquid is injected back into a reservoir.

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In binary plants, geothermal water is used to heat other organic fluids with lower boiling temperatures and the resultant gaseous vapour used to turn turbines to produce power.

“This milestone collaboration with Toshiba, an innovation leader in the geothermal steam turbine industry, is another significant step in our long-term strategy to expand our presence in the geothermal space and ultimately target the larger renewable energy market,” said Isaac Angel, the Ormat CEO.

After pioneering the technology at Menengai the global firms intend to roll it out in future geothermal projects worldwide. A consortium comprised of Symbion Power LLC and Civicon and majority owned by Ormat is constructing the Menengai plant.

The consortium in November 2014 signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Kenya Power and a steam supply agreement with the Geothermal Development Company.

The country is going big on geothermal energy to cut its power costs. The country has potential to produce 7,000 MW and is targeting production of at least 5,000 MW of geothermal power by 2030.

Energy from geothermal sources is relatively cheaper than that from fossil sources, and readily available in the natural reservoirs in the Rift Valley.

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