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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora