A Kenyan slaughterhouse is now more than a source of meat — its a source of energy.
A biogas plant has been opened near Nairobi to turn the animal waste from the slaughterhouse into 30 kilowatts of power, enough to light up the abattoir.
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) Director-General Kandeh Yumkella said, while opening the biogas plant at Dagoretti recently, that Kenya needed to invest more in community off-grid power to become globally competitive.
The country depends largely on hydro-electricity from the Seven Forks power stations on River Tana and independent power producers rely on fossil fuels for generation.
Kenya’s current power demand stands at 1,070 megawatts against an installed capacity of 1,160 megawatts, with some regions of the country still lacking electricity.Dr Yumkella said the methane gas harvested from the waste can also be used in homes.
“Locals can get methane that they can use for lighting and cooking. Provided they have appropriate stoves, we shall be able to refine and supply the gas. We hope that this biogas project will demonstrate to the government that the idea is viable.”
Many Kenyans depend on charcoal and firewood for fuel. This has a negative effect on forests and water towers, leading to drying up of rivers, reduced rainfall and related effects.
According to Unido, the fight against climate change will get a boost if more biogas plants are set up to provide sustainable cheap energy.
“We aim at minimising the use of charcoal for cooking. About 1.5-2 million people die every year from indoor pollution.”
There are three biogas plants in Kenya under Unido, including the Dagoretti plant. The others are in Homa Bay and Bungoma. Unido intends to set up others.
If the projects are adopted, isolated communities that live far from the national grid can establish their own power plants that will provide an alternative source of energy.
If the sustainability of the biogas plants succeeds, local communities will no longer have to wait for the government to connect them to the national grid but they will use their own domestic wastes to generate power.
According to Dr Yumkella, one of the reasons that some investors stay away from the Kenyan market is the high cost of energy. “The high costs of energy affect the cost of production by 15 to 20 per cent and increase the cost of goods.”
As the sector embraces alternative sources of energy, including geothermal, solar and wind, Unido’s investing in biogas technology may catapult Kenya’s energy sector to compete better in the global market.
Unless a regional framework to tackle the energy demands is drawn up, Unido says that energy problems will continue stifling the growth of the country’s manufacturing industry.
“Africa remains the most energy poor continent,” Dr Yumkella said. Use of agricultural biomass like waste from animals, feed stocks which comprise industrial solid and liquid wastes, and manure, have been envisioned as a source of cheap and clean energy upon conversion.
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