News / Science & Technology

South Africa Uses Biogas to Turn Waste into Power

South Africa Uses Biogas to Turn Waste Into Poweri
X
November 01, 2013 1:41 PM
Like many countries, South Africa is struggling to meet its energy needs. But instead of developing new technologies, the nation is trying a different tack - using waste to generate power. VOA’s Anita Powell has more from Johannesburg.
Anita Powell
— Like many countries, South Africa is struggling to meet its energy needs.  But instead of developing new technologies, the nation is trying a different tack - using waste to generate power. 

This is the unlikely source of South Africa’s future energy : a massive sewage pipe which runs through northern Johannesburg.

At a wastewater treatment plant, sewage is turned into energy, in the form of biogas.  Plant engineers say electricity price hikes in South Africa pushed them to look into generating their own power.

This facility produces methane gas that powers about 15 percent of the plant’s electricity needs.  Engineers hope to add more facilities to get to 50 percent.

Biogas is fuel created by the fermentation of organic material, like animal and human waste.  It’s an age-old technology that has come back into fashion.

Engineer Peter Louw says South Africa has about 300 biogas-producing facilities, from home setups to large factories.  Those facilities largely use the energy for their own needs.

“Biogas is, it’s energy, life energy, and we thought, let’s use it," he said. "Let’s enhance it, clean it and put it back into use so that we can then obviously improve lives, the quality of life.”

South Africa's Department of Energy is looking into ways to use biogas to power areas without reliable electricity, like Johannesburg’s impoverished township of Diepsloot.  The department estimates some 3 million South African households have no power. 

Mark Tiepelt, chairman of the South African Biogas Industry Association, has set up a biogas facility at his home.

“What we’ve got here is an in-situ[ation] cast concrete digester,” he said.

Tiepelt's home apparatus cost about $5,000.  He powers it with horse manure from a nearby farm.  Unlike the wastewater plant, he does not use his biogas to generate much electricity.

His apparatus generates enough biogas to power a stove, a water heater and a small generator. 

Tiepelt's organization hopes other homeowners will pick up on the trend.
 
“We’ve probably got a total of maybe 300 digesters in the whole of South Africa.  Now we compare it to a country like India, that’s got 12 million digesters, it just indicates the potential that we have in South Africa,” he said.

It’s a hot idea that could be ready to boil over.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Janine Raftopoulos from: Johannesburg
November 15, 2013 2:07 AM
Anita, just wanted to say thanks again for coming to the site visit and for the great piece you've done. Renewable and alternative energy sources are such a critical and important issue for Southern Africa.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid