By MURIMI MWANGI
Nyeri, Kenya: A sanitation company and a university in Nyeri are to generate electricity from water and human waste.
The project, estimated to cost Sh 100 million is a venture between Nyeri Water and Sanitation Company (NYEWASCO) and Karatina University.
According to a memorandum signed by the two, the university will undertake research on the project while the company will facilitate the procurement of the necessary infrastructure.
According to a feasibility test conducted by ILF Consulting Engineers, a German company, the company has great power generation potential.
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ILF drew a plan to generate hydro power at the water treatment plant.
The plan further indicates that the company can generate even more power from the 'digested sewerage waste' at the treatment plant.
Engineer Joseph Muchiri, the Nyewasco technical manager says both projects are distinct but have a capacity of generating one megawatt of power.
“This is a lot of power which is enough to cater for all power needs in our company,” said Muchiri.
At the treatment plant, a mini hydro power plant will be set up to generate electricity from the untreated water flowing in the pipes.
A different project will be situated at the sewerage plant, where Methane gas emitted during sewerage treatment will be used to power generators.
“We want to generate our own electricity so that the Kenya power will strictly serve as a standby. We are currently paying a power bill of Sh 1.1 million every month,” said Muchiri.
At the improvised mini-hydropower plant turbines affixed to pipes of 500 metres diameters will be rotated by water to convert the motion of the water to power.
Dr Flora Namu, the dean School of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at Karatina University, said that her students would greatly benefit from the innovation.
“Once we roll out the project our students will be going there for practical lessons. The society has a right to benefit from our youngsters innovative minds,” noted Dr Namu.
At the sewerage plant the university intends to invest to package the excess methane gas to be cheaply supplied to locals as a cooking fuel.
“It is our responsibility as an institution of higher learning to assist solve societal problems. Lack of environmental friendly fuel is one such problem,” noted Dr Namu.
Methane gas is an organic combustible gas that generates a lot of energy.
“Since we may not be allowed to distribute electricity freely due to the restrictions of the electricity Act, that accords Kenya Power monopoly, we shall ensure corporate responsibility by producing alternative fuel,” said Muchiri.
Nyewasco has been providing organic fertiliser made from the sludge (sewerage waste) to local farmers.
Muchiri foresees an expansion of the company operations which will increase the quantity of organic fertiliser produced.
“Organic fertilizer is very competitive yet we sell it to farmers at a cheap price of Sh150 per tonne. It’s in line with our corporate social responsibility,” noted Muchiri.
Muchiri, however, declined to give a timeline when the project would be affected.
He said its a relatively cheap investment which can prove really cumbersome and expensive if rushed.
“By cutting our electricity bills I believe we can repay the cost of the project I merely five years. But this does not necessitate a rush,” noted Muchiri.