Biomass technology demonstration centre proves viability
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) through continued research, demonstration of related technology and training, is turning to a new wave of economic activity within central Namibia centered on biomass.
CCF is coordinating international donors and investors to fund and support the Biomass Technology Demonstration Centre (BTDC). The completed construction of this new facility at its main campus demonstrate the full economic potential of biomass related industries and to research sustainable harvest methods that ultimately restore habitat.
With up to 15 tons per hectare of invasive thorn bush in central Namibia. General Manager at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Dr. Bruce Brewer said bringing commercial enterprises to the area will have the combined benefits of creating much needed employment, generating electricity, restoring wildlife habitat and improving farmland productivity.
Brewer is responsible for the overall day-to-day running of CCF and the Bushblok project. He said that the centre is researching a wide range of biomass technologies with an emphasis on those that are capable of generating sustained economic enterprises.
According to Brewer, biomass based electricity and solar electricity will both be important sources of energy for rural biomass industry as the centre will investigate how to best implement small grids in rural areas.
Brewer said, initial technology will include manufacturing of briquette logs, charcoal hex logs, lump charcoal for pyrolysis-based electrical generatio, while phase two will include other promising technology such as wood pellet production, alternative chipping power trains, and stirling engines.
The centre will draw on academics, researchers, and engineers to implement, evaluate and validate each technology, determining its suitability for the type of biomass available in the region. As needed, equipment and processes will be customized. Evaluations will also be made on the overall economic potential of specific industries to assure that cost of production is low enough to result in profitable sales of end products.
Over the past decade the Cheetah Conservation has been a leading researcher in the area of thorn bush harvest methods in Namibia. Its Bushblok operation has been certified by the internationally recognized Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Researchers conduct long-term monitoring of harvested areas to provide detailed information on habitat recovery.
“Commercial biomass operations will need large quantities of wood chip delivered at predictable intervals throughout the year, so matching input needs to harvesting equipment, methods and transportation will be vital,” Brewer said.
Meanhile, he added that other forms of renewable energy technologies will also be evaluated at the centre and these will include photo volta