Turning Waste into Energy: the Win-Win-Win solution
Prepared by Siyenza Management for Africa Energy Indaba
Biogas is probably the best kept secret in the renewable energy industry.
Organic waste is one of the untapped sources of natural energy available today. “It’s a simple solution that can be deployed in as quickly as three days but people don’t know too much about it”, says Jonathan de Magalhães, Managing Director of Ubuntu Energy Solutions. While biogas is used all over the world --India for example has more than 4.5 million digesters–harnessing biogas energy in South Africa is practically unknown. Only a small number of digesters have been built successfully and commissioned to date – a loss to the renewable industry sector in the country since biogas fulfils all of the criteria relating to environmental sustainability, requires a relatively low technological input and is cost effective to implement.
Biogas typically refers to the gas which is produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter. Organic waste, such as dead plant matter, animal manure and kitchen waste, can easily be converted into biogas in a simple biogas digester. Biogas consists mainly of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Biogas can be used as fuel for cooking, lighting, water heating as well as being able to run biogas generators to produce electricity.
Biogas provides a clean, easily controlled source of renewable energy from available organic waste for a small labour input, replacing firewood or fossil fuels, which are becoming more expensive as demand outweighs the supply.
Additionally, a biogas digester treats the organic waste and prevents it from taking up precious space in our landfills or over-burdened sewerage plants. In South Africa the waste disposed of in landfills produces unwanted landfill gas (Methane CH4) and leachate emissions. Furthermore, there is pressure on the country’s aging sewerage system. According to de Magalhães, generating biogas presents a Win-Win -Win solution because it offers:
- Easy disposal and treatment of Organic Waste
- Reduction of associated Energy Costs
- Provides further Cost Savings or a Passive Income
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Biogas digesters are used all over the world, and the technologies have made leaps and strides, especially over the past three years. The first biogas system was installed in India in 1859. South and south-west Brazil are characterised by intensive livestock farming. Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Federal state in Brazil, has an abundance of pig farms. The manure produced in large quantities by pig farming is used for biogas production.
According to de Magalhães, generating biogas offers a better Return on Investment (ROI) than solar or wind systems. “It’s easy to install and deploy, and is very low in maintenance, probably only requiring some attention once every 5 to 7 years. For these reasons, biogas digesters would work well in rural villages, farming communities and game lodges,” says de Magalhães.
But even the average family in Johannesburg could use their organic household waste in a biogas system. “As long as you have enough feedstock to put into the biogas system, such as blackwater, grass cuttings, and a reasonable amount of kitchen waste, then you can generate your own biogas. Even with a small system with enough organic feedstock, combine this with some solar panels and an intelligent inverter system, and you could get about 80% off the grid, all things considered.” says deMagalhães.“There is no smell because it is a closed system, and the payback period could easily be under 10 years, which is much shorter than a solar-powered system.”
However, amidst all these advantages, there have been no government initiatives in South Africa to assist those wishing to deploy biogas systems.
More on biogas technology will be discussed at the annual Africa Energy Indaba February 21st to 23rd, 2012 in Johannesburg.
Edited by Carin Hall
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.