International Researchers and Academicians from around the world including regionally and locally thronged Botswana for the 15th Biennial Botswana Institution of Engineers conference. The conference which many engineers tout as a platform for knowledge sharing and information exchange on the latest engineering matters was attended by more than 150 local, and foreign experts.
Engineering gurus from as far as United Kingdom, Europe and America indeed did not disappoint as they delivered what the doctor had ordered.
Some of the papers presented, looked at research projects aimed at mitigating climate change and improving access to energy as well contribute towards keeping green house gas emissions at 2 degrees according to the Paris agreement. In their presentations engineers offered solutions for different sectors such as, lighting, transport, and waste management, through use of solar and wind
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 offgrid
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 fecal sludge. He said the solar
technology contributes immensely towards decent sanitation and clean water as the fecal sludge collected from large volumes of pit –latrine users get dried up through drying beds. “The drying of
fecal 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.
Another presentation focused on building insulation considered as an energy saving measure presented by G. Kweche from University of Botswana Mechanical Engineering. Still at the UB, a
student from Mechanical Engineering department B Montshiwa presented an interesting waste management initiative meant to curb litter by cans which is a can crushing machine. Montshiwa said the project encourages can crushing in an efficient way as compared to old models.
A traffic congestion intervention project was also presented through the use of Infra Red sensors which are used to count the number of vehicles entering and leaving the intersection. According
to the presenter from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology in Palapye, this would curb lack of information about traffic status at another intersection. “The two main
aspects of the proposed mechanism are; to gather real-time traffic data and then using the data to effectively control and route traffic,’’ he said.
A guru on engineering and sustainable development issues from the University of Manchester Prof Paul Mativenga drilled engineers on the importance of sustainable practices in engineering and green economy. He said engineers also have a role to play in ensuring that when projects and products are designed issues of sustainability are also taken onboard. “We must ensure projects and products designed lower carbon footprint and encourage reuse- and recycling. And this can be achieved at the design stage of every project,” he quipped. He called on institutions of higher learning to incorporate sustainable development in the curriculum.