The top 5 largest power plants in Kenya

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Kenya has slightly over 30 operational power plants ranging from geothermal, hydroelectric, fossil fuel, wind and solar power plants. In this article, we look at the top 5 largest based on the nameplate capacity. As a bonus, we will mention others with a capacity above 100MW.

  1. Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant in Marsabit | 310MW

Lake Turkana Wind Power plant is the largest power plant in Kenya with an installed capacity of 310 MW, enough to supply one million homes or its thereabouts.

The wind power plant sits on an approximately 160 square kilometres piece of land or rather site in Loiyangalani District, Marsabit County. It comprises a total of 365 turbines (type Vestas V52) each of which has an 850-kW capacity.

Developed and owned by Lake Turkana Wind Power Limited, the KSh70 billion Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant project was completed in January 2017 after approximately 27 months of implementation.

2. Olkaria I Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru | 268.3 MW

The second largest power plant in Kenya is the 268.3 megawatts capacity Olkaria I Geothermal Power Plant.  The power plant is located in the Hell’s Gate National Park, Olkaria area in Nakuru County along with its sister stations, Olkaria II and Olkaria III.

The power plant started operations back in 1981 following the launch of its first unit with a 15MW capacity. In 1982 and 1985, two more turbines’ units 2 and 3 similar to the first one were commissioned respectively bringing the total generation capacity at Olkaria I to 45MW.

In 2015, units 4 and 5 with a 70MW capacity each were commissioned bringing the total installed capacity at the power plant to 185MW. A sixth unit with an installed capacity of 83MW was commissioned in 2022 bringing the Olkaria I Geothermal Power Plant capacity to 268MW.

The capacity of the power plant could however increase to 412 in the near future following the completion of an ongoing project to rehabilitate and expand the capacity of units 1, 2 and 3 from 45 MW to 63 MW. There are also plans to construct new units, 1RP, 2RP and 3RP with a 21MW capacity each by 2025.

Olkaria I Geothermal Power Plant is owned and operated by Kenya Electricity Generating Company.

3. Gitaru Hydroelectric Power Plant in Embu and Machakos | 225MW

Gitaru is a 225 MW capacity run-of-river hydroelectric power plant built on the Tana River at the Embu and Machakos Counties border.

The power plant, which is part of the Seven Forks hydropower plants, comprises a 30-meter-high rock- and earth-fill embankment dam that impounds a reservoir with a maximum capacity of 16 x 106m3 and a spillway capacity of 4500 m3/s. An underground powerhouse equipped with three (2 x 72 MW, 1 x 81 MW) Francis-type generating units is located near the reservoir’s left abutment.

Gitaru Hydroelectric Power Plant’s first two units were constructed between 1975 and 1978. The third unit, mobilizing the full potential of the power plant was not commissioned until 1999. Kenya Electricity Generating Company owns and operates the power plant.

4. Kiambere Hydroelectric Power Plant in Embu/Kitui | 165MW

Another one of the Seven Forks hydro power plants, Kiambere Power Plant is currently the fourth largest power plant in Kenya. The power plant like all the other power plants that form the Seven Forks power plants is built along the Tana River. However, it is located near Kiambere, at the border of Embu and Kitui Counties.

The construction of the Kiambere Hydroelectric Power Plant was built and commissioned between 1983 and 1988. The 110 meters tall dam with a 585,000,000 m3 reservoir was delivered in 1987 while the underground power house was commissioned the following year, 1988, with two 72MW turbine-generators.

Between 2008 and 2009, both turbine generators underwent rehabilitation & modernization projects that increased their capacity from 72 MW to 82.5 MW. The current Kiambere Hydroelectric Power Plant capacity is thus 165MW.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company owns and operates the power plant.

5. Olkaria V Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru | 158MW

Olkaria V Geothermal Power Plant is Kenya’s largest power plant sister station. The former is the fifth largest in Kenya with an installed capacity of 158 megawatts. It is located in the Greater Olkaria Geothermal Area, Nakuru County, in Hell’s Gate National Park to be precise.

The construction of the two 79MW unit power plant began in 2017 and was completed in 2019 at a total cost of Sh40 billion+. The first unit was synchronized to the National Grid on 28 June 2019 while the second unit came online in October 2019.

The power plant is wholly owned by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), which is a part of Mitsubishi Corporation supplied the two 70MW class steam turbine generators for the project while H. Young & Company, an engineering and construction company based in Kenya, carried out the project full-turnkey contract.

Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation, a subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), on the other hand, handled the steam gathering system while Sieyuan Electrical and North East China International Electric Power Corporation (NEIE) were responsible for the construction of the onsite substation as well as related transmission lines.

Other power plants in Kenya whose installed capacity is above 100MW

  1. Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru | 140 MW
  2. Olkaria III Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru | 139 MW
  3. Nairobi South Thermal Power Plant in Nairobi | 109MW
  4. Turkwel Hydroelectric Power Plant in West Pokot | 106MW
  5. Olkaria II Geothermal Power Plant in Nakuru | 105MW
  6. Kipeto Wind Power Plant in Kajiado | 100MW

From the list of the top 5 largest power plants in Kenya, it is safe to say that most of the electricity in circulation in the country is from geothermal power plants. In fact according to a recent report from Stastica, as of March 2023, geothermal was the country’s main source of electricity, generating 509 million kilowatt hours. Thermal contributed 167 million kilowatt hours that month, while wind and hydro registered 152 million kilowatt hours and 126 million kilowatt hours respectively. Overall, the electricity generation in Kenya totalled nearly 13,000 gigawatt-hours in 2022 up from 10,130 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2017.

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