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Rwanda Plans to Start Sinking Geothermal Wells, Has 700 MWs

May 4 (Bloomberg) -- Rwanda plans to start drilling exploratory geothermal wells in an area that may have at least 700 megawatts of steam power, following in the footsteps of neighboring Kenya, Energy Minister Coletha Ruhamya said.

Rwanda lies within the same Great Rift Valley fault system as Kenya, where shifting tectonic plates provide sizeable reserves of geothermal energy. Kenya, Africa’s biggest geothermal power producer, estimates the extent of its untapped power resources at as much as 10,000 megawatts, enough to meet its own electricity needs and export the surplus.

“Geothermal is the area that the government of Rwanda wants to prioritize,” Ruhamya said, according to a statement e-mailed from the Nairobi-based Geothermal Development Co. today. “Since Kenya has progressed far in the area, we are looking for collaboration and partnership in capacity building, drilling and putting plants in place.”

Ruhamya made the comments in a meeting yesterday with her Kenyan counterpart Kiraitu Murungi, according to the statement. She didn’t say when drilling may start. The New Times newspaper reported on March 10 that the country would start digging wells in August, citing Ruhamya.

Experts from Kenya’s state-run Geothermal Development Co. are currently training 12 Rwandese students on how geothermal technology works, today’s statement said.

Investigations into Rwanda’s geothermal potential began in 1982 with the north-western Volcanoes National Park and areas around Lake Kivu identified as possible sites, according to the energy ministry’s website.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at  smcgregor5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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