Countries around the world have signed an ambitious climate change deal called Paris agreement whose aim is to try to keep Green House Gas emissions well below 2 degrees Celsius at a level that will prevent dangerous warming. Further, they are required to have climate action plans which is called Nationally Determined Contributions which outlines their climate action. Implementation of low carbon strategies is therefore very critical in achieving the above goal.
Engineers from around the world thronged Botswana to take part in one of the largest Engineering conferences to present their different research projects aimed at curbing climate change as well contribute towards keeping emissions at 2 degrees. In their presentations engineers offered solutions for different sectors such as, lighting, transport, and waste management, through use of solar and wind energy.
In his presentation, Professor Daniel Chowdry from the University of Tshwane said deployment of microgrid with renewable energy resources is an affordable solution for electrification of off-grid communities and will contribute towards minimizing carbon emissions and global warming. He said currently, 1,5 billion people around the world still lack electricity access due to inaccessibility to grid infrastructure adding that the majority of the people live in Sub-Saharan Africa. ‘’Africa seems to be more vulnerable to lack of energy access though the continent has vast sunshine 24hrs and still relies largely on dirty sources such as coal and biomass,’’ he said. Professor explained that reliance on biomass was responsible for degradation of the environment and desertification problems and carbon emissions as carbon sinks (trees) are felled down and not planted again.
According to Chowdry, micro grid is globally recognized and research has identified that it is the only one that can alleviate energy poverty or shortage in Africa. Microgrids are standalone electric grids that can be used to power local communities and offer backup in hospitals and campuses. Microgrids also contribute towards saving energy and the environment as the energy is found nearby and does not have to travel distances in other words energy wastage is eliminated. With microgrids, solar panels are placed on the rooftop of a building and this can supply energy to large buildings and communities.
For his part, Professor Freddie Inambao from the University of Kwazulu Natal in Durban made a very interesting presentation about the use of solar energy to dry up faecal sludge. He said the solar technology contributes immensely towards decent sanitation and clean water as the faecal sludge collected from large volumes of pit –latrine users get dried up through drying beds. “The drying of faecal sludge results in the decrease of total volume of the sludge and assist in pasteurization,” said Inambao. He said the solar drier has offered a lasting panacea to the Kwazulu-Natal municipality which was experiencing high cost of power.
The University of Tshwane Lecturer from the department of Electrical Engineering Jeremiah Zulu gave a presentation on a project they are working on which involves use of wind turbines to power Transnet locomotives. According to Zulu, Transnet officials have already agreed to the plan citing that they want a small specially designed wind turbines to be placed on the rooftop of the railway train. Explaining how the process works, Zulu noted that a series of wind turbines will be placed on the rooftop of the railway train and the wind (kinetic energy) will be used as a source to produce the mechanical energy to the aero foil blades of the turbine. Further said Zulu, the energy will then be converted to electrical energy by the generator installed in the wind turbine and the electricity produced will run the various loads connected to the locomotive cabin, (tubes, lights, and fans).