NAIROBI, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Kenya's Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has invited prequalification bids from investors for the development of 400 megawatts (MW) of power from underground steam.
The state-owned company expects to drill 120 wells in the first phase of the project that will contribute about a quarter of the country's current installed power capacity, as east Africa's biggest economy shifts production to green sources.
'The estimated 400 MW Menengai Phase 1 geothermal project including four power plant construction is projected to be completed by 2014,' the company said in a statement on Friday.
'GDC will map the first four development blocks, drill exploration, appraisal and production wells and offer the steam to competitively selected investors who will construct the power plants and generate power with the fuel mined from these blocks.'
GDC estimates that the project field within Kenya's Rift Valley has a potential of about 1,250 MW.
'The long term plan is to develop 1000 MW within this prospect. However,the current project aims to realise about 400 MW by year 2014, 600MW by 2016 and 1,000MW by 2018.'
The GDC has pledges worth $400 million, 40 percent of the amount it needs for a 10-year plan during which it intends to produce 2,000 megawatts (MW) of steam.
The company formed in July 2009 to spearhead exploration of geothermal steam has drilled 25 wells in the Ol Karia field in Kenya's Rift Valley, all of which have been successful. They have steam equivalent of 196 MW.
Kenya's main power producer KenGen is already producing more than 200 MW of electricity from geothermal sources in the Rift Valley, and plans to add 280 MW of geothermal power at a cost of $1.3 billion by 2013.
The East African nation relies heavily on hydroelectric dams for power, which, although cheaper to build compared with geothermal plants, can be inefficient in times of drought.
Another firm said on Friday it planned to generate 60 MW of wind power.
'Aeolus Kenya is in the process of implementing a wind power project to be located to Kinangop Plateau near Magumu, Nyandarua district,' an advertisement in the Daily Nation said.
'The project will generate 60 MW of electric power which will be transmitted to Naivasha sub-station for sale to KPLC.'
Kenya Power and Lighting is a monopoly electricity distributor in the country.
KenGen is already generating over 5 MW from wind in the outskirts of the capital and another firm, Lake Turkana Wind Power, plans a 300 MW farm in a wind-swept region of northern Kenya.
(Additional reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Editing by Clarence Fernandez) (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://af.reuters.com) Keywords: KENYA ENERGY/ (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: +254 20 222 4717) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved. The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.