Kenya uses only geothermal energy to power its data centers.

Estimated read time 3 min read

By Samkele Mchunu

Globally, there is pressure on data center operators to offer environmentally friendly options; one recent project in Kenya chose to get its electricity from geothermal sources.

With the signature of a memorandum of understanding between local data center operator EcoCloud and Abu Dhabi-based technology firm G42 to develop a data center that will run completely on geothermal energy, Kenya’s expanding geothermal sector has achieved another significant milestone.

According to the two firms, the facility has a planned capacity of 100 MW initially, with the possibility to develop to 1 GW.

Massive amounts of electricity are needed for data centers, particularly with the rising usage of AI-based apps that consume a lot of power. Any disruption in the delivery of electricity could have disastrous effects on their ability to operate.

In fact, in many parts of the world, there is controversy over the increasing percentage of electricity utilized by data centers. Globally, data center operators are facing pressure to offer environmentally friendly solutions in response to criticism regarding their impact on the environment.

Here’s where geothermal energy may be able to help.

Unlike solar or wind power, which can only provide an intermittent supply of energy, geothermal power is completely renewable and offers a “baseload” source of electricity. It is produced by superheated pools of water and steam that are created by magma flows beneath the Earth’s surface.

Geothermal energy shares many of the advantages of most other renewables. For instance, compared to traditional thermoelectric stations powered by fossil fuels like coal, it produces less carbon dioxide, particulate matter and other toxic substances that create the greenhouse effect, which contributes to climate change. Using this underground energy allows us to reduce our use of fossil fuels and can help us to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Geothermal energy is also in line with sustainable development and is essentially free once the plant has been installed. There is no doubt either that recent history has taught us that both the performance and efficiency of renewable plants are improving year after year.

Aside from being essentially unlimited like many other renewables, geothermal energy is always available. It is not impacted upon by whether it is day or night like solar energy, and does not depend on season, climate or weather conditions like wind and solar power. On average, a geothermal power plant will produce energy for around 8,600 hours a year, while in solar plants the average is around 2,000 hours per year. We can therefore describe the rate of geothermal energy production as constant, at least in the short or medium term. This makes it more easily predicable and plannable.

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