Friday, April 22, 2016

Kenya: Geothermal and Nuclear Technology Could Power Off-Grid Communities

Could the marriage of geothermal and nuclear technology be the way of the future? (ESI Africa)

A concept paper on the compatibility of geothermal and nuclear technology being a viable solution for off-grid communities by Ronoh Kibet, project engineer at KenGen

In a global context, geothermal energy has been labelled as one of the most reliable alternative renewable energy sources, which has proved to be both technically and economically feasible. In East Africa alone, there have been discoveries of an estimated 15,000 MW of potential geothermal capacity, according to the United States Energy Association.

However, development of geothermal power is undermined by the long development durations spanning from the drilling of wells through to their connection to a power utility. The cost, as well as the risk involved in drilling commercially viable wells, are enormous and require specialised geoscientific research to mitigate the risk of barren production wells.

On the other hand, nuclear technology has evolved from being conventional gigantic power plants, which cost over US$50 billion, to small portable sized nuclear energy reactors that are extremely secure and quick to implement. The portable nuclear reactors you find today are factory assembled, easily deployable and are completely secure and safe.

The power systems that are easily deployable are a favoured option for emerging and developing communities that are currently not connected to a conventional electrical source. To ensure energy security and sustainability, research institutions are examining which energy technologies complement each other best. With the abundant geothermal resources in East Africa, it is only logical to test nuclear and geothermal compatibility.