Kenya will progressively get another 280 MW to feed the electricity starved country, as the latest of the geo thermal plants at Olkaria, located at the foot of Mt. Longonot in the Great African Rift Valley, started coming on line over the weekend. An initial 70 MW will be followed by a further 70 MW in April, when all the connections to the national power grid have been completed before the full production capacity can then enter the national power distribution network. For long has Kenya depended on hydroelectric power plants but the constant cycle of drought and excess rains has made power production less reliable and when the water levels in the dams dropped during drought cycles, the country suffered rolling blackouts.
Geothermal energy production is one of the focal points to increase power generation output in Kenya and with additional sites already identified, more such plants will be commissioned over the coming years, giving Kenyans not just more electricity – power rationing has been notorious in the past – but will also reduce the cost of electricity as geothermal production is among the cheapest ways to generate.
The plant is located inside the Mt. Longonot National Park but as it has been there before the park itself was created enjoys a special status and does not collide in its present format with tourism activities. Longonot is renown as an adventure destination for both Kenyans as well as foreign tourists who come to climb the mountain, use the bike trails or else hike through the rugged terrain. The Kenya Wildlife Service has established an annual event there, the Mt. Longonot Wheelbarrow Race, from which charitable contributions are raised besides promoting the park as a key weekend getaway location for Nairobians.