Direct use refers to the use of geothermal resources for alternative use other than electricity generation. These alternative uses include greenhouse farming, fish farming, milk pasteurization, and laundromat.
GDC has already rolled-out five Direct-Use pilot projects at the Menengai Geothermal Project in Nakuru through a collaboration with United States Development Agency (USAID) with an aim of showcasing the Direct-Use technology to potential investors, local communities, learning institutions and other relevant organizations.
The first four Menengai demonstration projects were as a recommendation of detailed studies of potential for direct-use applications in Kenya. They were launched in August 2015 and have since been used to reach thousands of key potential investors, as well as communities living near the project.
In 2014, GDC, in collaboration with USAID, carried out a detailed study on Direct Use applications and produced a guide titled “Geothermal Direct Use Guidebook”. The book outlines how to assess the possibility of identifying the different applications in various localities.
The design concept for the demonstration units is connected to a low pressure geothermal well in Menengai (MW-03). Energy from low enthalpy wells, normally unsuitable for electricity generation is suitable for direct uses hence improving the overall economics of a geothermal project.
The brine flows into a concrete bath and a stainless steam coil which is used as a heat exchanger to heat fresh water to 85oC. The hot fresh water provides the required energy to the demonstration projects.
The GDC Direct Use pilot projects include:
In Menengai, the direct use demonstration project mainly capitalizes on horticulture farming i.e. growing capsicum, tomatoes and kales. Fish is also harvested from the heated aquaculture ponds.
All the produce is delivered to the GDC Catering Unit in Menengai which caters for the drilling crew on a 24-hour basis, resulting to a reduction in the overall expenses at the unit.
Direct use applications have both economic and environmental benefits, by reducing overreliance of fossil-field based energy and ensuring efficient utilization of the available resources.
Direct use projects have many benefits to communities located near the geothermal areas. They include:
GDC recommends the establishment of an industrial park near the Menengai geothermal field where industries will be set up by investors to utilize geothermal energy. A feasibility study on establishment of an industrial park near Menengai is planned.
To utilise thermal energy efficiently and economically, the application facilities have to be located close together and near the energy source. This will ensure cascading of the available energy from high intensive uses to lower energy grade.
In March 2019, a preliminary assessment was also done around the Baringo-Silali area to identify the most viable applications. A more detailed study, in line with the Guidebook guidelines, is scheduled for the 2019-2020 financial year.