By Donald Nyarota
A local renewable energy start-up in Zimbabwe’s eastern border town of Mutare has been given the green light to set up a biogas power station to convert sewage water into commercially viable energy.
Tawanda Energy, in collaboration with Harare Institute of Technology, was early this year granted a 25-year lease by Mutare City Council to develop bio-refineries at its two main sewer plants in Sakubva and Yeovil.
Founder, Tawanda Chitiyo, said the lease to develop Mutare Bio-refinery would not only provide an operational base for a 3 megawatt biogas power plant, but also usher a new era in urban waste water management, renewable energy and innovation of technologies.
“The Mutare Bio-refinery project will focus basically on ensuring that we reclaim, recover and convert waste into commercially viable energy in a diversified approach.
“We have roped in stakeholders in the energy and petroleum distribution sectors to regularise our operations as we commence this exciting new era for Mutare and Zimbabwe in terms of urban waste water management,” said Chitiyo.
Under the 25-year lease agreement, subject to finalisation through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU), Tawanda Energy will be able to use Mutare town’s main sewer plants as feed stock to fuel the biogas plant.
Chitiyo said when operational, the two autonomously powered plants will produce at least 120 000 litres of diesel and 1, 115 kg of bio-methane gas as well as generating 3 megawatts of energy, daily.
He said feasibility studies carried by Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), were encouraging as they said the power plant would benefit the grid.
“We have already done the grid impact assessment with ZETDC while the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA, has approved our plans to set up the bio-refinery plants and will inspect the safety of the plant after we are done.
“When operational then we will be able to produce 3 megawatts a day, 120, 000 litres of diesel and 1, 115 kg of bio-methane gas. This can be used domestically provided there are requisite burners and this provides a downstream linkage to suppliers,” said Chitiyo
Tawanda Energy has also struck an agreement with Astra, a German company that specialises in relocation of power plants that are economically unprofitable in their present location to get technical support.
An introduction letter signed by Astra Innovations managing director, Cynthia Wandia to ZETDC, says the firm will also provide technical and economic feasibility, financing and mobilisation of financial resources and risk management.
“Tawanda Energy has selected Astra Innovations as a technical partner in the project. They will provide all the technical support for the construction and commissioning of the plant according to international standards, including the short listing and vetting of contractors.”
Harare Institute of Technology director of Environmental Management, Renewable Energy, and Climate Change Research Centre, Dr Anthony Phiri, said the project was a community outreach to show the potential of natural resources to drive sustainable development.
“It’s more of a community outreach from HIT. The project essentially represents the abundance of natural resources in Zimbabwe and the innovative approaches to sustainability.”
Chitiyo said while their initial project will be in Mutare, he plans to advocate for a national adoption of the system to provide renewable and clean energy across all urban centres where water waste management is done.
“At this moment we are much focused to drive this initial phase (in Mutare), but we also have projections to have this replicated across Zimbabwe in cities and towns. We believe by doing this we are fighting climate change and improving livelihoods of indigenous people.
“So essentially we are helping in creating cleaner, healthier and sustainable ecosystems, reducing dependency on foreign fossil fuels and save foreign currency, prevent global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions as well as creating new business opportunities,” said Chitiyo.