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Ashden Awards 2006
Alex Steffen, 19 Oct 06

We covered last year's Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy. This year's winners are just as inspirational:

Tanzania's Mwanza Rural Housing Programme, which has invented a way to fire bricks using rice husks, cotton waste and coffee husks instead of wood, turning agricultural wastes into a resource and helping to provide housing.

India's International Development Enterprises which has distributed over half a million treadle pumps (which use human power to move water, rather like the Super Money Maker) to farmers in the plains of Uttar Pradesh.

Bangladesh's Grameen Shakti and Rahimafrooz Batteries Ltd, which have used microcredit and new, simply designed systems to create what Ashden says has become the world's most successful program for bringing solar power to the rural poor.

India's Appropriate Rural Technology Institute, which has launched, in Ashden's words, "a revolution in biogas design":

new compact biogas technology developed by the inspirational Dr. Karve and his team of engineers, needs only vegetable residues, waste food and grain. Its daily consumption is just 1kg of feedstock (such as waste flour, leftover food, spoilt grain, spoilt milk, over-ripe fruit, green leaves and oil cakes) as opposed to the 40kg of cow dung needed for the traditional plants. From this small amount of feedstock it produces 500 litres of gas. The digestion process is also much quicker - taking place within 48 hours instead of the 40 days required when using dung.
The biogas plants are made from cut-down HDPE water tanks. The standard plant uses two tanks of incremental sizes (eg. 0.75 and 1m3) so the smaller fits inside the other. The smaller tank holds the gas and the larger contains the slurry. The basic water tanks, which are mass produced, often from recycled plastic, are adapted with the help of a heat gun and standard HDPE piping. The plant is filled with a starter mix, either cattle dung mixed with water and starch or effluent from an existing plant mixed with starch (waste flour). The feeding of the plant is built up over one or two weeks until it provides a steady supply of gas. With its moulded plastic construction and 1m3 capacity it takes only 2-3 hours to install, and is cheaper and easier to put in place than the dung based plant. Its relatively small size means it can be used in urban houses and even apartments, which is a break-through in the world of biogas production.

Technologies like these -- which combine leapfrogged design abilities with appropriate technology approaches -- offer tremendous hope for leveraging massive numbers of people out of poverty in a sustainable way.

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The biogas plant is very interesting.Why are we not using this system in Canada? As I understand it, collecting and burning biogas from waste is good because it stops the methane from adding to greenhouse gases, and supplies a "fossil" fuel. So why not do this everywhere where people have backyards and compost (or septic systems)?

Delores Broten

Posted by: Delores Broten on 19 Oct 06



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