Geothermal Power and Wind Energy in Rwanda

Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the earth and visible on our earth’s surface in the forms of fumaroles, hot springs, steaming grounds and altered grounds. To extract this energy, wells are drilled to tap steam and water at high temperatures and pressures at a depth of 1-3km.

This steam and very hot water can be used either directly for heating, for example also in greenhouses for agricultural purposes, or for electricity generation.

Natural geothermal heat or energy is stored inside our planet, but it is only exploitable if it comes close enough to the surface.

In Africa this is mostly the case within the East African Rift Zone which passes through the western branch of Rwanda. That this zone is geothermally active, and that the surface is very thin, was proven during the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano which destroyed half of the city of Goma in 2002.

These volcanic eruptions bring the stored heat to the surface in an uncontrolled sudden manner. However it is also possible to use this energy in a careful and monitored way.

In Rwanda the Virunga volcanic zones in the Northern part and the area around the hot springs located in the Western part of the country close to Lake Kivu are believed to be potential sites for possible geothermal exploitation.

Geothermal potential

Rwanda’s current power production equals a total of about 60MW at peak hours that is generated mainly from thermal and hydropower.

Considering, that energy is a prime component of further economic development, that the Rwandan Government is eager to diversify as well as stabilize its energy supply and that the thermal energy currently used is expensive, geothermal energy has to be given its due importance as a potential relevant contribution to our national energy balance.

Geothermal power is an attractive source of energy because it is naturally available, renewable and can be economically viable.

The potential for geothermal power generation in Rwanda is currently estimated at about 170-300 MW.

This estimation is based on observations and surface geochemical work that was carried out at a hydrothermal spring in the Western part of the country by the French Bureau BRGM (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières).

Ongoing efforts in geothermal development

In 2006, the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) was given the responsibility to develop the country’s geothermal resources for electricity generation.

From that time, several contacts have been established with international companies specialized in geothermal development for Rwanda’s geothermal resource assessment.

In this context in November 2006, a preliminary assessment of two geothermal prospects was carried out by the American company Chevron which confirms that the potential indeed exists in Rwanda.

In June 2007, MININFRA submitted an official proposal to the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) for technical support to Rwanda on geothermal resource assessment.

In collaboration with the German government, an implementation agreement was thence signed in November 2007 between MININFRA, the Ministry of Environment and Natural resources and BGR for Rwanda’s geothermal resource assessment and capacity building project which is sponsored by the German government.

This assessment has started and the site under inspection is the area between the Virunga national park and Gisenyi. The geoscientific assessment to determine the exact potential should be completed by December 2008.

Further detailed assessment in other localities will be conducted with the assistance of BGR next year.

Moreover, a proposal for geothermal assessment was submitted by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). The reconnaissance and detailed geo-scientific surveys on a selected site close to Cyangugu are expected to start after signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between KenGen and MININFRA this year.

For the successful and sustainable exploitation of our geothermal resources the Ministry has foreseen to develop local expertise through capacity building.

In November 2007 two engineers already participated in a short term training on surface exploration of geothermal resources which was organized in Kenya by the United Nations University Geothermal Programme (UNU-GTP) in collaboration with KenGen.

Moreover a six months course at the UNU-GTP in Iceland was offered to an engineer this year from April 2008 onwards. Our engineer is currently being trained there, and next year several other geologists and engineers are expected to benefit from the UNU-GTP course.

In November 2008 Rwanda will participate at the African Rift Geothermal Facility (ARGeo) conference which will take place in Entebbe, Uganda.

All East African countries will come together during that conference and cooperate on raising funds for further exploration and drilling.

This will contribute to promoting the Rwandan geothermal sector and help to accelerate geothermal energy investments in our country.

Way forward for the development of geothermal in Rwanda

– Geothermal resource exploration of remaining geothermal sites in the country by hiring competent firms with expertise in geothermal exploration: Geo-scientific surface studies and exploratory drilling, to be conducted in 2009

– Geothermal resource assessment: Drilling of appraisal wells and well testing, will commence in 2009

– Power Plant Development: Drilling of production wells, steam pipelines and Power Plant construction, will start 2010

– Identification of financial partners who are willing to invest in geothermal sector projects, will be identified in 2009

– Capacity building of Rwandan experts in geothermal energy, already started.

Rwanda: Citizen to Generate Electricity From Wind

Rwanda could soon start to produce significant amount of electricity from wind power, thanks to a project spearheaded by a Rwandan national based in the U.S.

Jackson Ndizeye wants to have rural communities lit up using wind in not later than a year, and has already embarked on the wind farm which could contribute at least 6 MW to the country’s energy needs.

State Minister Eng. Albert Butare says at the moment the country has an energy deficit of up to 30 percent, and admits that such innovative undertakings would help the nation not only address the current power supply shortfalls but also in connecting millions of people with electricity.

Ndizeye, through his charity Rwindalectric, is set to commission a 12-month feasibility study to determine the wind capacity of Rwanda, which may cost about $50,000.

Rwanda is short of energy with a deficit of up to 40% of all its electricity needs required to run the expanding industrial sector and general business environment. The local utility provider can barely cope with the demand. Now, Mr. Jackson Ndizeye, a Rwandan living in the U.S. wants to have rural communities lit up using wind power in not later than a year.

Mr. Ndizeye, through his own charity Rwindalectric, is to commission a 12-month feasibility study to determine the wind energy capacity of Rwanda, which may cost about $50,000. Before June this year, equipment that will measure the wind turbines capacity to determine how much electricity can be generated, should be on the ground.