30 September 2013

Tanzania: Lake Natron May Produce Electricity

Dar es Salaam and Arusha — STUDIES are underway in more than 50 locations in the country in search of sources of electricity generation. The spots include Lake Natron which is believed to have potential in geothermal.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Mr Eliakim Maswi, told the 'Daily News' that the government is working in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the Lake Natron study.

"We have come to learn that on the other side of the lake, in Kenya, they have power plants. They generate nearly 300MWs. Therefore it is crucial that we initiate a thorough study on our side," he said.

Mr Maswi said that the government was interested in geothermal due to its reliability and sustainability in power generation. "Lake Natron potential in geothermal emanates from the fact that it lies in the Rift Valley but at the moment we have nothing tangible yet. It is just a mere study," Mr Maswi said.

If the study shows positive results, Lake Natron, which is Africa's only breeding area for lesser flamingoes, will become another source of energy. The plan was brought up recently when Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda visited communities in the vicinity of the lake.

Investing in geothermal power plants at Natron will complement the ongoing project to build the Arusha-Musoma highway via Lake Natron shores to tarmac level. The roadwork, according to the PM are expected to commence in November.

The area around Lake Natron is said to be highly potential for geothermal power. It is dotted with a number of geysers and underground hot water springs originating from huge rock piles that form the entire landscape of the semi-arid area.

Lake Natron is located at the base of O'ldoinyo L'engai, which is Tanzania's third highest mountain with an active volcano that is on record for erupting frequently. Geothermal power is reported to be more sustainable than hydro-electricity due to the fact that heat extraction in the process is quite small compared with the earth's globe heat content.

According to experts here, the emission intensity of any existing geothermal electric tapping plant averages at 122 kilos of Carbon Dioxide per Mega-watt hour of electricity which is equivalent to just one-eighth of a conventional coal-fired plant.

Recent geological studies indicate that at least 20 warm, saline springs with temperatures ranging between 32 and 52 degrees centigrade occur along the shore of Lake Natron, a large hyper-saline lake measuring over 200 square kilometres though rather shallow at just one meter deep.

Overall Tanzania has geothermal potential of 650 megawatts, discovered in the Northern and Southern highlands and its exploitation will reportedly help the country, which relies on hydropower to alleviate electricity shortages. Geothermal energy is renewable, indigenous, clean and safe.

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