The US government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has approved up to $310m in financing for a geothermal project in Kenya.

The money will be used by OrPower 4, Inc, a subsidiary of Nevada-based Ormat Technologies, to add up to 52 MW to the existing 48 MW Olkaria geothermal plant in the Rift Valley, some 75 km northwest of Nairobi. Ormat also operates geothermal plants in the US, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

Ormat will use its own proprietary binary cycle technology involving Organic Rankine cycle turbines that are air-cooled and run on the heat energy from geothermal fluid extracted from geothermal reserves. Re-injecting cooled water into the reservoir results in minimal impact on the environment from the energy production process and requires limited external water use.

The project is expected to generate 55 new local jobs, result in initial US procurement of $82m, and also help Kenya develop its geothermal resources in order to cut its reliance on hydroelectric power.

“Doubling the capacity of this geothermal plant is an important step forward for Kenya’s economic growth, as well as for the global shift to a lower carbon economy,” said OPIC president Elizabeth Littlefield. “The fact that the project uses American technology to do so, and creates jobs in both the US and Kenya, makes it a win-win situation for all involved.”

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