How geothermal energy can boost tourism, agriculture and education

By Gadiosa Lamtey

Dar es Salaam. Geothermal energy is known as a renewable source of electricity, but Tanzanian experts are now gearing up to explore other potentials, including boosting tourism.

Tanzania is endowed with international earth heat (geothermal) which is still at the stage of exploration by experts.

It is estimated that about 16 regions have geothermal energy sources capable of generating a cumulative 5,000 megawatts of electricity and 15,000 megawatts of heat that can be used for various activities.

Kato Kabaka, managing director of the Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC), says energy can boost the economy through agriculture, fisheries, livestock, education and tourism sectors.

“The government has invested heavily in this sector by building the capacity of local technology experts. We hope that by next year the first generation of geothermal energy will be available,” he said in an interview.

Geothermal energy is touted because it has no seasonality and guarantees the reliability of supply “in all circumstances”.

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The TGDC is implementing five projects in Songwe, Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro and Coast regions where it aims to produce 200 MW of electricity by 2025, of which 30 MW is expected to enter the national grid.

Goal number seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demands affordable and clean energy in which the world aims to switch to green and clean energy sources.

Investing in solar, wind and thermal energy, improving energy productivity and ensuring energy for all are seen as key to achieving SDG 7 by 2030.

Agricultural productivity

Mr Kabaka told the Citizen that farmers can increase their productivity through the use of thermal energy which can be regulated using simple technologies in greenhouse agriculture.

He cited an example of farmers relying on the sun to dry their crops, which means crops cannot dry out during the rainy season.

However, geothermal energy can be used in any season using greenhouse facilities.

“This will reduce post-harvest losses and aflatoxin, while a farmer will increase product quality. It also helps the crop to stay intact for a long time without deteriorating,” he said.

He said a plan is underway to develop the dry system and showcase the opportunities offered by geothermal energy so entrepreneurs can adopt the heating technology for their crops.

In livestock, he said, “In other countries they use heat to increase milk production and dry animal hides, but we see more opportunities in poultry.”

Mr. Kabaka added that the company has developed a simple incubator technology for rearing chicks using available heat from geothermal energy and the project is progressing well.

“We are currently producing chicks. Our goal is to show the opportunities, but not to enter into this business. Our core business is power generation and the response is excellent. Many residents need chickens that we produce,” he said.

In the fisheries sector, he said that some fish need heat to survive and reproduce en masse, adding that geothermal water contains vitamins that fish need.

Tourism and education

According to him, countries like Japan, Romania, the Middle East and the United States, among others, are gaining tourism through thermal energy, with tourists visiting places with thermal energy.

“For example, there are those who believe that hot water can cure illnesses or is a blessing, while others like to relax and swim. There is technology to take water and send it to the pool for tourism,” he explained.

He added that almost all national parks in Tanzania have geothermal energy, “meaning we can connect wildlife tourism and geothermal energy. At the moment, we have built a swimming pool for tourists in Songwe to show people that tourists need to see new things.

“We are in talks with other authorities such as the Songwe authorities so that they can add geothermal energy to their tourist package. By doing so, we will extend the days of stay of tourists in the country, and as a result, foreign currencies will increase and individuals will benefit from the sale of various products.

In education, professionals in the field are currently being trained overseas and this is an opportunity for colleges to develop programs that will teach these skills to young people.

According to him, colleges can also benefit from designing different affordable technologies for farmers, poultry and fisheries on how to increase production using geothermal energy.

“We have entered into discussions with various universities so that they can develop programs and take advantage of available opportunities,” he said.

For his part, the Acting Director of Tourism at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr. Philip Chitaunga, said the hot spring, which is a geothermal spring, is part of the tourist attraction, with tour operators also taking the tourists visit these sites.

“There are such attractions in Lake Natron and Nyerere National Parks. So we will start promoting the new attraction in Songwe so that tourists can visit,” he said, adding that the tourism sector is progressing well despite the challenge of Covid-19.

In Tanzania, 52 locations in 16 regions have been reported to have huge geothermal energy resources.

Some 90 countries around the world have geothermal resources, with Kenya being Africa’s largest producer of geothermal electricity, currently producing some 890 megawatts.

Helen D. Jessen