The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, has approved US$ 310 million worth of financing for a project to double the capacity of a Kenyan geothermal power plant.
In so doing, the project will support the Kenyan Government’s effort to develop country’s extensive geothermal resources in order to reduce reliance on hydroelectric power generation and provide low-cost base load energy.
Kenya is divided by the Rift Valley, a very active geological area with a lot of potential for geothermal projects. It is in this area that the plant is situated.
OrPower 4, Inc., a subsidiary of Ormat Technologies, Inc. a Nevada-based company, will use the OPIC loan to add up to 52 megawatts of generating capacity to the existing 48 MW Olkaria geothermal plant in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
Ormat will use its own proprietary binary cycle technology involving Organic Rankine cycle turbines that are air-cooled and run on the heat energy from geothermal fluid extracted from geothermal reserves. Re-injecting cooled water into the reservoir results in minimal impact on the environment from the energy production process and requires limited external water use.
“Doubling the capacity of this geothermal plant – which emits negligible greenhouse gases and is therefore one of the most environmentally-friendly power-generating technologies available – is an important step forward for Kenya’s economic growth, as well as for the global shift to a lower carbon economy,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield. “The fact that the project uses American technology to do so, and creates jobs in both the U.S. and Kenya, makes it a win-win situation for all involved.”
Ormat Technologies designs, builds, owns and operates geothermal power plants in the United States, Nicaragua, Kenya and Guatemala; as of February 2011, the company had installed generation capacity of 553 MW.
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