Salford firm’s green power for South Africa

Up to 1,900 homes in a South African city are set to plug into ‘green’ electricity generated by sustainable power technology from Salford-based engineering group Ener-g in conjunction with their South African partners Energy Systems.

The 22 million rand (£1.6 million) project at Pietermaritzburg, near Durban, will convert harmful landfill gases into electricity, making the city the third in South Africa to harness electricity from waste.

The project has received the green light from the local authority and work will start in February following a public consultation process.

The technology involves capturing methane gas – 21 times more harmful to the environment than C02 – that will power an internal spark ignition engine with a capacity of two to three megawatts. The electricity will be fed into the local grid, providing power for between 1,500 and 1,900 households.

The generating equipment used will be a spark ignition engine housed in a large “shipping” container measuring 12m x 3.2m, making it highly portable and completely unobtrusive. Between 60 and 100 bore holes with a diameter of 300 mm  will be sunk into the 3.5 hectare landfill site, pipes will be inserted, the top sealed and the gas will be sucked out of the waste mass. The  projected lifespan of gas production will be 10 to 15 years.

Dave Cornish, general manager of Ener-g Systems (the joint venture company), commented: “The social and environmental benefit of a project of this nature is substantial and even though a premium is required for green power – because it is more expensive to generate electricity from landfill gases than from coal – it is essential for South Africa to support renewable energy projects to make a sustainable contribution to the country’s energy mix.”

The green power project is also expected to make a big difference to environmental concerns related to the landfill site.

“The extraction of methane will dramatically reduce the potential of fires and odours on the site, as there will be active gas management,” explained Dave Cornish. “Also, with the extraction of landfill gas, the smelly gas – hydrogen sulphide – is not released as it is captured along with the landfill gas.”

The project is supported by the local authority and Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business. “We believe this intervention will serve as an example of how to redress some of the other environmental challenges facing the city,” said chamber chief executive officer Andrew Layman.          

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