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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

GeoPower Africa

PI: Nicholas Obuya Mariita (, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, with co-PIs Jacques Varet, DKUT; Tesfaye Kidane Birke (,, Addis Ababa University; and Gabriel Mbogoni (, Geological Survey of Tanzania
U.S. Partner: Cynthia Ebinger, University of Rochester
Project dates: September 2014 - August 2017

Satellite and ground-based studies of the Kenya sector of the East African rift system (EAR) reveal active magmatic and/or aqueous fluid movement beneath 40% of the volcanoes, and similar results are emerging from systematic mapping along the Ethiopian and Tanzanian rift sectors with numerous surveys on geothermal energy. The project has two aims: the first is to map the small but multiple geothermal areas and the second is to identify new forms of geothermal exploitation along the EAR. These sites are small-size units combining power and heat applications from medium to low enthalpy resources (70-150°C) and their application for powering groundwater pumping. In parallel, the expected results from the project will inform nascent volcanic and earthquake hazard mitigation programs in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The project thus requires an interdisciplinary approach including geology, hydrogeology, fluid geochemistry, shallow crustal geophysics, power engineering (notably ORC units) applied in cascade use of energy (greenhousing, food drying, thermal bathing, green tourism). A survey of geothermal fields that could supply these innovative units will be carried out along the EAR (Afar through Kenya to Rungwe Province, Tanzania, using existing data from numerous reports from past geothermal exploration programs not presently available in the international journals as well as newly emerging data from two active NSF projects--CRAFTI and SEGMENTS). Thus, the team will build a strong regional framework for scientific and technological exchange, while at the same time empowering and educating local communities, particularly in pastoralist regions where resources are sparse. In parallel, their training and research exchange program will engage researchers in Africa, the United States, and Europe, with the aim of determining the necessary conditions and local training for such applications to be deployed in test sites in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The expected major impact of the project, having mapped the potential of geothermal systems in East Africa for supplying small-sized units, will be to establish systems for replication of the initiatives at community level so as to provide power to the local community in areas not connected to the electric grid presently or in the foreseeable future. The power generated from these small units will also be used to increase drinking water supply for human and livestock. With the identification of both groundwater and hydrothermal resources on each site and socioeconomic conditions to be met for success, the project will determine the conditions for development of new irrigated land; production of local combined energy production devices; and hydrothermal fluid production for bathing, medical, and other sanitary applications, including sustainable tourist developments. These activities are expected to eventually contribute to improved socioeconomic conditions for communities living around the sites where the geothermal activities will take place.

 Mariita 1Mariita 2

Geothermal steam from Corbetti Volcano, Ethiopia, being condensed with tree branches by local community for drinking and medical purposes.(photo courtesy of Dr. Mariita).

GeoPower Africa Kenyan team being given a tour guide to one of the hot springs at Homa Hills, western Kenya. A young girl, with her sibling strapped to her back, wonders how this geothermal project will affect her life. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mariita)


Summary of Recent Activities

During the 4th quarter of the 3rd year of the project, the following activities were accomplished:

Meetings continued to be held with local communities and their leaders recommending and explaining possible technologies applicable to geothermal resources in their locality. Selected community leaders were given study tours to teams’ host institutions where they made presentation to members of staff and students on how the project is impacting on their views on their local Geothermal Energy resources.

Technology transfer to both PhD and MSc students who are using project data for their dissertations continued as new information on new geothermal sites provided was added to the databases

Manuscripts were submitted to high impact, peer review, international journal authored by some team members. The project team organized Geo-Power Africa Project Regional Meeting, in Dodoma, Tanzania, where project members from Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia attended and reviewed the progress of the project activities and discussed the way forward.

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