How geothermal can boost tourism, farming, education
Dar es Salaam. Geothermal energy is known as a source of renewable electricity but Tanzanian experts are now gearing up to explore other potentials including that of boosting tourism.
Tanzania is endowed with the international heat of the earth (geothermal) which is still at the exploration stage by experts.
It is estimated that some 16 regions have the geothermal energy sources which are capable of generating a cumulative of 5,000 megawatts of electricity and 15,000 megawatts of heat that can be used for various activities.
Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC) chief executive officer Kato Kabaka says the energy can boost the economy through agriculture, fisheries, livestock, education and tourism sectors.
“The government has invested a lot in this sector by building the capacity of local experts in terms of technologies. We hope by next year the first production of geothermal power will be available,” he said in an interview.
Geothermal energy is touted for it has no seasonality and guarantees reliability of supply ‘under any circumstances’.
The TGDC is implementing five projects in Songwe, Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro and Coast regions where it targets to generate 200MW of electricity by 2025, with 30MW expected to get into the national grid.
Goal number seven of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) requires affordable and clean energy in which the world targets to go for green and clean energy sources.
Investing in solar, wind and thermal power, improving energy productivity, and ensuring energy for all is said to be vital to achieve the SDG 7 by 2030.
Mr Kabaka told The Citizen that farmers can increase productivity through the use of thermal energy which can be regulated by using simple technologies in greenhouse farming.
He cited an example of farmers who rely on the sun to dry their crops, meaning that the crops cannot dry during the rainy seasons.
However, geothermal energy can be used during any season using the greenhouse facilities.
“This will reduce postharvest losses and aflatoxin, while a farmer increases quality of produce. It also helps the crop to remain intact for a long time without deteriorating,” he said.
He said a plan was underway to develop the dry system and showcase the opportunities available through geothermal energy so that entrepreneurs might adopt the heating technology for their crops.
In livestock, he said: “In other countries they use heat to increase milk production and dry animal skins but we see more opportunities in poultry.”
Mr Kabaka added that the company has developed a simple incubator technology for breeding chicks by using heat available from geothermal and the project is progressing well.
“We are currently producing chicks. Our goal is to show the opportunities but not to enter into that business. Our core business is energy production and the response is great. Many residents need chickens that are produced from us,” he said.
In fisheries, he said there were some fish that need heat to survive and make mass reproduction, adding that the geothermal water has vitamins that are needed by fish.
Tourism and Education
According to him, countries like Japan, Romania, Middle East and the United States among others, earns from tourism done through thermal energy, with tourists visiting the places with thermal energy.
“For example, there are those who believe hot water can cure diseases or is a blessing, while others like to go for relaxation and swim. There is a technology to take the water and send it to the swimming pool for tourism,” he explained.
He added that almost all Tanzania national parks have geothermal, “which means we can connect wildlife tourism and geothermal. At the moment, we have built a swimming pool for tourists in Songwe to show people that tourists need to see some new stuff.”
“We are in talks with other authorities such as the Songwe authorities so that they can add geothermal in their tourism package. By doing so, we will extend the days of tourists staying in the country and as a result foreign exchange will increase and individuals will benefit from selling various products.”
In education, currently professionals in the area are receiving training abroad and that is an opportunity for colleges to develop curriculum that will teach young people those skills.
According to him, colleges can also benefit by designing different affordable technologies for farmers, poultry and fisheries on how to increase production by using geothermal energy.
“We have started talks with various universities so that they can develop curriculum and grab the opportunities available,” he said.
For his part, the acting director of tourism in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Philip Chitaunga, said the hot spring, which is a source of geothermal, is part of tourism attraction whereby tour operators also take tourists to visit those 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 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 the leading African producer of more geothermal electricity, as it currently produces some 890 megawatts.