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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora