Hope for geothermal power as drills charge

Rwandans stand to enjoy geothermal energy as an alternative source of electricity after government yesterday launched three wells at the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi in Kabatwa Sector, Nyabihu District.
Prof. Lwakabamba (R), Isumbingabo (C) and EWSA chief Karitanyi during the launch yesterday.   The New Times/ Jean Mbonyinshuti.
Prof. Lwakabamba (R), Isumbingabo (C) and EWSA chief Karitanyi during the launch yesterday. The New Times/ Jean Mbonyinshuti.

Rwandans stand to enjoy geothermal energy as an alternative source of electricity after government yesterday launched three wells at the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi in Kabatwa Sector, Nyabihu District.

The project, which is in exploratory stage, will focus on drilling three prospective wells, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure.

Launching the project, the Minister for Infrastructure, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, said the country looks forward to generating more energy through devising alternative sources.

“Once geothermal is discovered and the extraction done, Rwandans stand a chance to get cheap, accessible and reliable energy,” Prof. Lwakabamba said.

“This is a milestone because we are entering a new phase and we hope that it will be productive. We believe this will change the cost of energy supply in Rwanda.”

He said study done ahead of drilling showed there is possibility of finding geothermal in different areas of the country.

Geothermal energy exploitation involves extracting hot water from geologically active areas and using it to provide heat to generate electricity.

Preliminary findings, in early 2011, by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), which was contracted in 2010 to conduct a thorough surface exploration of geothermal energy, indicated that Rwanda’s potential is estimated to be more than 700MW.

The other geothermal potential sites are Kinigi in Musanze District, Gisenyi in Rubavu District and Bugarama in Rusizi District.

The minister said the Belgian government expressed interest in supporting Kinigi geothermal energy exploration.

He said: “Geothermal energy is something which has been owned for many years, many countries started drilling about hundred years ago; for instance, Somaliland, New Zealand and eastern America, among others.”

the minister said due to experienced engineers hired from Great Wall Drilling Company, a Chinese firm active in Kenya geothermal development, drilling will take only two months in each well.

Geologists have been in the place supervising whether the soil allows drilling exercise and they will be still supervising day-to-day reporting to the ministry.

Prof. Lwakabamba said the Bugarama project will be a joint effort with Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

The State Minister for Energy and Water, Eng. Emma Francoise Isumbingabo, said the three wells cost the government about $21 million (about Rwf14 billion).

She said: “According to the study, Karisimbi would provide between 150MW and 300MW, and, with other sites, Rwanda expects to get 700MW.”

The next 14 months


Ntare Karitanyi, the director-general of Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority, said within six months, authorities will know if there is steam in the wells, and within a year or 14 months they will have designed a geothermal plant.

Nyabihu mayor Abdulatif Twahirwa promised to work with the firm to protect the sites as well as other materials.

The search for geothermal resources in Rwanda started in 2006 as government looked to diversify energy sources.

Experts estimate the geothermal potential of the East African Rift Valley, a geothermal hot-spot that spans 11 countries, at more than 15,000MW, but the valley’s massive potential remains largely untapped except for budding projects underway in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Geothermal energy, which is typically heat from the earth, is cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The project is part of government’s ambitious Rwf3 trillion roadmap for energy production and accessibility over the next five years. The government plans to progressively tap 200MW from peat, 310MW from geothermal, 320MW from hydro power, and 300MW from methane gas.

Rwanda currently generates 110MW, that is, 16 per cent of domestic accessibility.

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News