Solar, biogas options vital as power shortages set to continue

As Zimbabweans face acute power shortages, people should explore and use solar and biogas energies, says Rural Electrification Agency spokesperson, Johannes Nyamayedenga.

His call comes against the backdrop of recent remarks by Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire that power shortages plaguing the country would get worse. He said a long-term solution was four years away as the power company working on the expansion of Hwange and Kariba power stations only expects to boost supplies by 2017.

Regional nations apart from Mozambique have stopped exports to Zimbabwe due to increasing demand back home. This country produces 1,100 megawatts against a daily consumption of 2,000MW.

Nyamayedenga said REA had embarked on both biogas and solar projects ideal for rural and urban areas to generate power using household organic waste, sewage, livestock manure and sun to complement power shortages.

“We have designed various sizes of biogas digesters that can be sustained by a kraal of three cattle and methane-gas-generators that can power televisions, lights and fridges. We are also investing in solar grid to power mostly for rural and farm areas for water pumps,” he said.

Since last year various preliminary tests of biogas digesters had been set up across Harare and proved effective, he said. “The sizes of these digesters vary between 10 to 60 cubic-meters and at Roosevelt School and Chikurubi Prison we set up ones which use sewage. At the Pig Industry Board we have put a digester which uses animal waste while at Harare Hospital it uses organic matter like food stuffs to generate biogas,” he said.

Nyamayedenga said people should desist from using firewood as it promoted deforestation with negative impact on the ecosystem and climate.

“It is cheap to set up a digester especially in rural areas or farms as most inputs such as bricks, sand water, livestock manure are free with only cement and labour costs needed. Biogas and solar energies are environmentally friendly, cheap and can be used for various domestic, agriculture and industrial purpose on both large and small scale,” he said.

Other alternative energies include charcoal, coal, paraffin, diesel or petrol generators – but come at a cost that most Zimbabweans both in urban and rural areas cannot afford.

Low income urban communities like Hopley farm, Retreat Farms and Epworth have designed wood-shavings or sawdust powered stoves. As firewood is hard to get in urban areas people use the readily available and cheap sawdust which they get from home-industries like Mbare and Glen View for cooking. A sack costs $0.50 and can last for over a week depending on usage.

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