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Japan to contribute IoT tech to improve East Africa geothermal power production

VIENNA -- The Japanese government is set to cooperate with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to raise production efficiency at East African geothermal power generation facilities by linking them to the internet with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, it has been learned.

    It will be the world's first such project, and the Japanese government hopes to counter China's growing influence in Africa by bringing Japan's state-of-the-art technology to the region, which is known to have high geothermal generation potential.

    At the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD-VI) held in August, Japan announced that it will spend approximately US$10 billion, or around 1 trillion yen, on building high-quality infrastructure in Africa over a span of three years. Japan has already revealed that it would be placing an emphasis on geothermal power generation that utilizes Japanese technology, and the IoT project is set to be the first installment of these efforts.

    Kenya and other East African countries possess some 13,000 megawatts of geothermal potential, but have only harnessed around 4.9 percent of that, or 632 megawatts.

    According to sources close to the deal, Japan and UNIDO will create network connectivity of various devices at power stations. Sensors that detect temperature and vibrations will be installed on power generators and turbines, allowing for the collection of operational data, which will then be analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI) toward raising production efficiency. Since IoT allows for the remote operation and management of facilities, people will not have to be dispatched to disaster-prone sites or areas where they could be exposed to illness.

    Japanese manufacturers account for 70 percent of the world geothermal power generation turbine market. If Japan and UNIDO are able to verify that IoT technology can increase productivity, it could increase willingness to invest in geothermal power generation in East African countries, thereby expanding the market for Japanese turbine manufacturers.

    The Japanese government and UNIDO reached a formal agreement on Nov. 22. The Japanese government is set to contribute 1.5 billion yen to geothermal power-related expenses from its supplementary budget.

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