Geothermal Village: Smart/off-grid Geothermal stand alone, cascade-use systems

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Work Package (WP)

The Geothermal Village project will be developed as LEAP-RE WP 11.

Location

Eastern Africa

Partners

Lead: Université de Lorraine

Overall Objectives

The ‘Geothermal Village’ project aims to introduce geothermal-based stand-alone electric and thermal energy systems to off-grid African communities. Geothermal energy is permanent and flexible, which leads us to provide template case-studies on adapting the energy systems to different communities needs and socio-economic contexts in eastern Africa. The proposed energy plans will follow a common geothermal exploitation in a cascade mode, from electricity production from hot geothermal fluids to thermal energy direct use from lower temperature fluids for a large variety of applications, based on the local needs and income sources (e.g. agricultural drying process, manufactural uses, greenhouses heating, hot-springs-based tourism). We will therefore develop a suitable geothermal energy plan for each site of a selection with different geological and socio-economic characteristics. We will seek to maintain an appropriate level of technology in the operation and maintenance of facilities at the local level, which supports the long-term goal of local empowerment and socio-economic development, and encourages local trained youth to remain in their homeland. Ultimately, these energy systems should supply fresh water and supplant oil and firewood which, in addition to environmental and health benefits, will reduce domestic expense and workload on women and girls allowing time for education and productivity.

©Jacques Varet (Géo2D) – Stone-built steam condensing towers made by Afar pastoralists on a steaming normal fault of the Asal Rift (Djibouti Republic).
Context: why is this action necessary? 

As background, Africa – in particular all along the East African Rift System (EARS) – has geothermal resources of high value. Kenya now relies on large-size geothermal plants (700 MWe) to ensure the country’s electric baseload. Nevertheless, the resource – even if exceptional with steam available at the surface – is essentially untapped, particularly in the remote regions of the countries where the societal needs are highest. Thus, relatively inexpensive boreholes can tap quite hot fluids (150°C), sufficient for electricity and many domestic, agricultural and industrial processes. The limited use of this energy resource in this region seems to be mainly due to the lack of reference projects to drive investments, as well as to a lack of local know-how and trained human resources. To ensure long-term and ethical geothermal exploitation in that region, implementation must come from African local organizations. Geothermal energy use in off-grid areas will eventually help to reduce dependency on carbon-based resources and demand for electric grid extension. by providing stable local power that can be combined with other renewable energy sources. 

What are the concrete actions that will be implemented? 

Based on both geological and socio-economic analyses of the selected sites, the project’s contributors will provide template case-studies on developing a suitable energy plan of stand-alone geothermal systems, adapted to the local community needs. The implementation of the Geothermal Village concept will require geosciences and socio-economic sciences research, the development of appropriate technologies, along with local capacity building in both engineering and socio-economics. Templates and guidebooks will be produced for the demonstration and the large-scale replicability of the GV concept, seeking for the local appropriation of the geothermal facilities. European and African entities of the project will jointly ensure the multidisciplinary research, support the community-based initiatives of the targeted sites and develop local capabilities, working through schools, universities, NGOs and public and private organizations. We aim to transmit knowledge to ensure the local mastering of the whole chain of basic knowledge, technology management, social organizations and economic capabilities to ensure the maintenance, extension and replication of community-based geothermal projects. 

What is the expected impact of the WP? 

The Geothermal Village project will contribute to several expected results: 

  • Highlighting the value of geothermal energy as a renewable energy and source of income in remote and undeveloped environments 
  • Demonstrating to public and private investment organizations the feasibility of stand-alone geothermal energy systems in African remote areas
  • Enhancing knowledge on how to implement renewable energy community-based projects in remote off-grid areas
  • Strengthening of a large array of skills (admin., technical, etc.) of the local beneficiary communities through their participation to the Geothermal Village concept implementation