According to the World Bank, Kenya will grow 5.6% this year and 6.1% next year. Picture: THINKSTOCK

NAIROBI — Kenya is seeking investors to build three power plants to harness steam in the Rift Valley, the state-run Geothermal Development Company (GDC) said on Friday.

The GDC said it expected to drill 120 wells in the first phase of the project.

The three plants are to produce 300MW of power by 2018 and the GDC estimates the project field has a potential of about 750MW.

"A period of 24-36 months will be provided for power plant construction," it said in a statement, adding that investors would be required to provide 60%-80% of the capital.

It said investors that qualified would be expected to raise at least $400m for the development and the government would not provide risk guarantees.

It encouraged would-be investors to look for these from organisations such as the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

Kenya currently has 1,664MW of capacity against a maximum recorded demand of about 1,410MW, but demand is growing.

East Africa’s biggest economy is expected to expand 5.9% in the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends in June.

The government in November said it wanted to add 5,000MW to Kenya’s power output by 2017 to unleash even faster economic growth, which is expected to raise power demand to 15,000MW by 2030. It also aims to halve the cost of power generation in three to four years, mainly by replacing diesel generation.

Geothermal energy requires a large initial investment, mainly due to expensive drilling of wells, but is more reliable than rain-fed hydropower generation in periods of drought.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company has 157MW of geothermal capacity and is constructing a 280MW geothermal power plant at Olkaria in the Rift Valley.