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
Octopus Renewables buys Eclipse Power
The deal, which was completed with funds managed by Octopus, furthers Octopus’ involvement in the electricity distribution sector, having worked with Eclipse since 2018. It will allow Eclipse to continue the expansion of its team, while also investing in its systems, technology, and pipeline, with the ambition of making it one of UK’s leading IDNOs.
Eclipse has secured a portfolio of more than 10,000 connections across residential, industrial, commercial, battery storage and electric vehicle charging customers. Given the focus on electrification of heat, transport and industry in the UK, Eclipse is expected to play an important role in facilitating the UK’s energy transition.
Octopus Renewables is the largest investor of utility scale solar power in Europe, as well as a leading investor in onshore wind and biomass, managing a global portfolio valued at more than £3.5 billion. Institutional investor Nest partnered with the company in March.
Peter Dias, Investment Director, Octopus Renewables, said: “Having worked with Eclipse since 2018 and seeing their exciting growth, we’re thrilled to be able to make this acquisition and support the team to maintain this momentum.
“The acquisition of Eclipse is part of our strategy to identify and back great management teams that are supporting the energy transition. With ongoing support and investment, our investee businesses will have access to the expertise, business networks and financing to be able to scale faster and help contribute towards the UK’s net-zero goals.
“High-quality management of the distribution networks is going to be critical for the UK, and we are very pleased to be directly supporting the decarbonisation of heat, transport, and industry through this acquisition of Eclipse.”
Gary Gay, Managing Director, Eclipse, added Octopus shares a clear understanding of the important role that electricity distribution networks will play in the UK’s drive towards net-zero, and importance of a customer-focussed approach for building future smart distribution networks.
“With that, we are excited to now be part of the Octopus Group, with this investment helping us to reach the next stage of our growth journey and contribute to a greener, more efficient electricity network in the UK.”
Global renewables updates
ReNew Power recently won a 200MW/ac Interstate Transmission System (ISTS) solar generation project in an auction conducted by the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company. ReNew Power expects to sign a 25-Year Power Purchase Agreement with the utility by the third fiscal quarter of 2022 to supply clean energy to Maharashtra at a tariff of Rs 2.43/ kWh (~US$0.033).
Natel Energy, a supplier of sustainable hydropower solutions, has announced a $20M funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and supported by Chevron Technology Ventures.
The company will use the funding to deploy its Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), which enables cost-effective production of distributed reliable renewable energy.
Duke Energy Florida plans to invest an estimated $1 billion in 10 new solar power plants across Florida, including the construction of four new sites, which will begin in early 2022 and will take approximately 9 to 12 months to complete. Construction of all 10 sites is projected to be finished by late 2024.
LG Electronics has made public its commitment to transition completely to renewable energy by 2050 as a key component of its sustainability strategy.