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African Delegation Exchanges Knowledge with Top Geothermal Experts

May 18, 2015

Tapping into 14,000 megawatts of geothermal potential in eastern Africa is the focus one new collaboration at NREL.  

Six visitors from Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, capped their trip to Colorado on Friday, May 15, with meetings and tours at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The African delegation spent the week at the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office Peer Review in Westminster, Colo.

East Africa is one key area with substantial geothermal energy potential along the East African Rift System (EARS). Experts believe the EARS system promises to be one of the world's greatest sources of geothermal power.

"Kenya and Ethiopia have substantial geothermal power production, big plans for future development, and excellent exploration prospects along the EARS," said Charlie Visser, NREL principal geologist. "Djibouti is planning to develop a very large geothermal system as well.

"Geothermal development along EARS will make a huge contribution to electrification and reduction in power cost in this part of the world with obvious social and economic benefits," he added.

During the Peer Review, the African delegation had the opportunity to meet and listen to many of the top geothermal experts in the country. This forum enabled the delegation to learn about the range of geothermal projects and lessons learned.

During the NREL visit, the African engineers and researchers shared their experience in exploring and developing world-class geothermal systems associated with EARS. This insight can help the domestic geothermal industry better understand hydrothermal system models and find blind, or concealed, geothermal resources in similar geological environments in the United States. Other discussion topics included finding, developing, and managing high enthalpy resources; geothermal power production in rift settings; and electric grid integration challenges.  

NREL experts shared technical background on key projects:

  • Nationwide geothermal data management- designing, building, operating and curating the Geothermal Data Repository
  • Colorado Collaboration for Subsurface Research in Geothermal Energy (SURGE) geothermal partnership with Colorado School of Mines
  • Research to apply petroleum drilling and completion techniques to geothermal with the goal of capturing huge advances in the oil patch that may dramatically reduce and improve the economics of geothermal energy.

"This is the beginning of identifying opportunities for future technical exchanges," said Tom Williams, NREL geothermal manager. "The goal is to exchange technical knowledge on geothermal energy development that can benefit not only eastern African but potentially other countries like China."

This collaboration with Africa is supported by the DOE Office of International Affairs, DOE Geothermal Technologies Office, and the State Department. 

—Linh Truong