The Dangers of Commoditizing Compressors

Compressed air is one of the most misunderstood utilities in industry. Case in point – yesterday I overheard a conversation at a hardware shop between a customer and a sales person.

Customer – “I would like a compressor, 200 liters.”

(Attendant checks to see if such a compressor was available and proceeds to give a price)

Customer – “What is the compressor motor HP?”

(Attendant does not know and has to confirm the details)

This conversation may not seem out of place if you are not a compressor professional but to those in the industry it sets alarm bells ringing.

This conversation leaves out the most crucial information about sizing and selecting a suitable compressor. There are critical questions that need to be asked to enable customers procure the right equipment and to ensure their needs are well served.

What is the application?

  • The application will guide the air quality requirements for example, the need for a dryer, filters or an oil free compressor. The application will also guide the choice of compressor type.
  • To clarify, screw compressors are more suitable for continuous operations such as those in manufacturing and piston for intermittent use such as petrol stations or workshops.

What are the pressure and flow requirements?

  • This would be the equivalent of the load the compressor is expected to serve and is the most important information in determining the appropriate size of compressor.
  • This information can be found by checking the data plates of the equipment that will be using the air or by carrying out flow and pressure measurements.

Back to the customer that I listened to…

It is possible that they may have found a solution to suit their application, and it is also possible that they procured an item that was oversize or undersized for their needs.Both scenarios are quite undesirable, and can be avoided.

Unlike before, compressors are now available over the counter at many hardware shops around the country.

This shifts the responsibility from the hardware vendor, directly to the customer to understand their application well enough to know what the requirements are and what specific questions to ask to ensure they get the right solution.

On the other hand, if the vendor is informed then they may as well be the solution provider and seek to advise customers accordingly. However if both are uninformed as is proving often the case, it is the perfect recipe for expensive mistakes.

This encounter raises the following critical questions:

  1. Are we are as informed about compressed air as we would like to believe?
  2. What energy efficiency opportunities are we missing due lack of information?
  3. Have we invested in compressed air training to build competence in this subject?

By Eng. Mathew Waita Mwenga

Eng. Mathew Waita Mwenga is the managing director at Ren Engineering Solutions and is very passionate about energy efficiency with a special interest in compressed air solutions. He may be found on +254 715 833 628 | info@ren-engineering-solutions.com | http://www.ren-engineering-solutions.com/

Creating Energy Efficiency Awareness – My Experience

By Monica Ngage.

I have just started working at an energy consultancy firm. One of our missions is to create energy efficiency awareness in order to empower people to be more conscious about how they use energy and to make wise decisions.

There’s a chart on the wall in our office that outlines energy efficiency initiatives and When I saw this clearly written, it hit me that I normally don’t pay much attention to energy consumption back in my house and from observations too, my neighbors also do not.

I need to mention that I am not technical and I work in the finance department, but I have now developed an interest in energy.

Many times taps are left to run unchecked and water is obviously wasted, yet if there is no water for one or two days, we will be rushing to the caretaker demanding to know why.

• Is it because we don’t foot the water bills?
• Do we have a don’t care attitude perhaps?
• Is it an aspect of lack of knowledge?

The famous verse Hosea 4:6 that is often quoted on many occasions that that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge comes to mind when I think about our water use and management.

Taking this into account, I realized that people need sensitization on efficient use of energy.

The next question that comes to mind naturally is – what is this energy efficiency? Do people understand why we need it? Do they see it as a restriction on their use of resources?

And the answer to this is – of course not – It is actually a strategy to lower emissions and reduce energy use and costs.

In order to make people understand, we need to have an awareness program in place. This involves identification of various ways through which people can be reached out to and the target audience.

I encourage everyone to know that energy efficiency is beneficial to all of us and we all need to look around us, and check on different ways we can save energy and most importantly share the knowledge we have by creating awareness of this to others.

It got me thinking about what the root cause of this could possibly be and I asked myself a couple of questions?

• Is it because we don’t foot the water bills?
• Do we have a don’t care attitude perhaps?
• Is it an aspect of lack of knowledge?

The famous verse Hosea 4:6 that is often quoted on many occasions that that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge comes to mind when I think about our water use and management.

Taking this into account, I realized that people need sensitization on efficient use of energy.

The next question that comes to mind naturally is – what is this energy efficiency? Do people understand why we need it? Do they see it as a restriction on their use of resources?

And the answer to this is – of course not – It is actually a strategy to lower emissions and reduce energy use and costs.

In order to make people understand, we need to have an awareness program in place. This involves identification of various ways through which people can be reached out to and the target audience.

I encourage everyone to know that energy efficiency is beneficial to all of us and we all need to look around us, and check on different ways we can save energy and most importantly share the knowledge we have by creating awareness of this to others

I have gone further to think about some of the ways that can be used to reach out to people and these include

• Printed materials such as newsletters, memos, pamphlets
• Internet based communication platforms such as FaceBook and Twitter
• Public channels including displays and booths and other public communication systems
• Promotional items such as t-shirts, buttons and coffee mugs

The target audience for energy efficiency awareness is not limited to a specific audience and is applicable to everyone including:

• Employees
• Building occupants
• Students
• Service providers/suppliers
• Customers
• General public and local community
• Visitors
• Media

Creating energy efficiency awareness has additional benefits over and above saving money, and these includes:

• Increased stakeholder understanding of benefits of energy efficiency
• Behaviours learnt in workplace are transferred to home and community
• Empowering the community through savings
• A clean environment that is safe for all
• Enhanced reputation of your organization as a leader in environmental stewardship in the community

What the Energy Act 2019 means for the energy efficiency space in Kenya

By Chris Mbori

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently (March 12, 2019) signed the Energy Bill 2017 ushering a new era in the energy space in Kenya. Being in the energy efficiency market, I have looked through the new Energy Act 2019 and found three interesting highlights to share.

1. The Energy Saving Certificate Scheme

This is quite an interesting concept and ideally, I do not know how it will pan out from the start. It is almost like the carbon trading scheme but less structured since the details have not been provided in the act.

Different designated energy consumers will be required to consume up to a certain prescribed norm and standard.

A consumer who consumes less than the prescribed norm of energy will be rewarded with an energy savings certificate by the authority.

On the other hand, if a consumer consumes more energy than the prescribed norm, they will be required to purchase energy savings certificates so as to off set their “over the limit” consumption.

The procedure for issuing these energy savings certificates will have to be developed by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA). I would assume that the authority would have to come up with a credible platform that awards genuine energy efficient institutions their energy savings certificates.

A lot of work will have to be done to develop the threshold values or energy intensities that are considered the prescribed norm. Either way, it would be great if energy efficient facilities can get a way to sell off their energy savings certificates to less energy efficient facilities.

2. Counties Are Empowered to Implement Energy Efficiency.

The new Kenya government county structure has been incorporated in this new energy act. The government has both the national government and county government, and traditionally, it has been the national government driving the energy efficiency and conservation programs.

County governments have been given more responsibilities to ensure energy efficiency and conservation is implemented at the county level.

Kenya currently has 47 counties and enforcing energy efficiency from the national level has been a daunting task for the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA).

With the new energy law, we can say that energy efficiency and conservation has now been devolved to the county units.

The County government shall be required to establish an energy efficiency fund for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation in their respective counties. The counties shall also appoint inspecting officers to ensure compliance with the energy efficiency performance standard.

Currently it has been the mandate of the energy regulatory commission (ERC now EPRA) to send inspecting officers to ensure compliance with energy efficiency standards. Devolving this function to the counties will improve on enforcement.

3. Energy Audits are Here to Stay

It is quite clear that energy audits will still continue being among the core activities that identify energy efficiency measures that need to be implemented.

EPRA shall designate factories and buildings for the purposes of energy efficiency and conservation. These designated facilities shall be required to conduct energy audits, have a designated energy manager and implement energy efficiency measures that keep their consumption level under a set limit prescribed by the regulations.

The energy auditors, energy managers and energy audit firms will have to be listed by EPRA in continuation with the current scenario.

The energy management regulations 2012 that have guided the energy audits markets will otherwise need to be improved to include aspects like identification of energy managers for facilities, capacity building opportunities for the accredited professionals and probably Energy Service Company (ESCOs) regulations to enable introduction of performance contracting model in the energy efficiency market in Kenya.

Conclusion

As we still at the formative stages, currently the three agencies created with this new law are busy re-organizing themselves with the new Energy Act 2019.

EPRA will have a lot of work to do to ensure that the energy efficiency market is vibrant and helps the country meet its COP 21 Paris Agreement goals while saving the country huge investment in building power plants that power energy wastes.

They will also have to promote awareness with the standard and labeling programs, information on energy consumption and energy statistics required to build schemes like the energy savings certificates. Most of the regulations will either have to be created anew or improved to accommodate the demands of the new energy act.

The county government will also need support to drive energy efficiency and conservation at their respective counties. Implementing all this may take a few years but ultimately we shall soon usher in a new era in the energy efficiency and conservation space here in Kenya…

Chris Mbori is passionate about energy management professional. He is currently the Managing Director for Eenovators Ltd and doubles up as the Vice President for the Association of Energy Professionals Eastern Africa

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENERGY AND POWER

BY OMBAJO VINCENT GEDION

The confusion surrounding these two words cannot be gainsaid. In fact, the confusion also reigns within professional circles of engineers, scientists and technicians.

And when the two words are in the vicinity of each other, for instance in a sentence, the mix-up doubles even more.

Energy And Power Explained

Energy and power, are often thought by many as synonyms. However, this misperception can be forgiven because Energy and Power possess a high degree of interrelation.The good news is that they are not in any way difficult to differentiate.

Energy and Power are related but different physical quantities in the field of energy generation, storage and usage.

Stated simply, energy is the capacity to do work or the ability to do work while power is the rate at which that work is done. Essentially, power is a measurement of energy…a measure of its rate.

Power calculates the time by which the energy has been consumed. So energy can be delivered to run an equipment, but the rate at which it runs the equipment is its power. Put simply, that the equipment can run slow or fast translating to low power or high power respectively.

Therefore, it is important to note that energy is a measure of the total quantity of work done while power is a measure of how fast that particular work is done. Suffice to say, thus, that power and energy are not similar. Power is the rate of energy per unit time.

Take the example of a car or a light bulb. For the car to move down a highway, work has to be done to move it. It takes energy to do this work. The car can move faster or slowly. How fast or slow this energy moves the car is called power. Therefore, the faster the work is done on the car, the more the power.

Let us take the example of a filament bulb. For a bulb to light, electrons have to be moved. Moving these electrons take work that obviously requires energy. The rate at which these electrons are moved is power.

The electrons can be moved faster or slowly and that will depend on the energy supplied. Taking an examples of engines, a smaller engine can do the same amount of work, produce the same energy, consume the same fuel just as much as a bigger engine.

But where is the difference? While the two engines can perform the same amount of work, the smaller engine will take more time while the bigger one will take a shorter time.

Why is this so? The smaller engine has less power while bigger engine has more power. The higher the power, the faster is the engine, and the quicker the work gets done.

Electrical power is measured in Watts while Energy is measured in Watt-hours. For instance, if a bulb is rated 100 Watts. That is its power.

But how much energy does it use? It will depend on how long it is left burning. If it burns for 10 hours, the total energy becomes 100 W ×10 hrs=1000 Watt hours. It can be written as 1 kWh because 1000 W is equivalent to 1kWh. To put it plainly, anytime you measure electrical energy, it is important to always check the ‘hours’.

Finally, while energy can be stored, power cannot be stored. Also, while energy has a time component, power is an instantaneous element.

Power remains constant, it cannot vary while energy can vary predictably. Energy changes form while power doesn’t. For example, kinetic energy can change to electrical energy and vice versa for work to be done. As a matter of principle, if something (work) has to happen, energy has to alter its form.

On the other hand, power does not change, it only measures how fast the change has transpired. In short, power and energy are interrelated but not similar.

Simple Factors Affecting Solar Performance worth Knowing

Simple Factors Affecting Solar Performance worth Knowing

Over the past five years, solar energy use has grown in East Africa and especially Kenya. Boosted by a government regulation on solar energy and high cost of power, many Kenyans and commercial entities have taken solar energy use into much consideration.

Several examples abound, from homes to schools, hotels to farms, factories to malls. The key benefit always being the energy savings that come with solar installations.

Reduction in utility bills and going green drive the solar market and the savings are real. When installed in a commercial facility, Solar energy replaces much of the electricity supply from the grid.

However, worth noting are the external factors that can influence the energy production capacity of the solar installations.  Some of these factors can be controlled, while some can’t.

It is important to be aware of these factors;This is a very key factor and it’s not a common word to be uttered by many. You will never hear a friend telling you,” The irradiance out here today is high.” It is just not a normal talk for us.

Irradiance is basically a measure of the amount of sunlight a particular area/surface receives. Simply put, the higher the irradiance on a solar panel, the more the solar energy produced by that panel.

And herein lies the catch, the world is designed in such a way that this irradiance varies from place to place and time to time. The fact is that irradiance varies throughout the day.

The sun’s angle and position, moving clouds, bad weather, and air pollution all affect irradiance levels. Nonetheless, from year to year, the total amount of energy received from the sun remains relatively the same.

In fact, in a particular year, irradiance causes a variation of between 5-10% of the suns energy captured by the solar cells. So in designing solar systems, irradiance data, mostly from weather databases are used.

1. Irradiance

This is a very key factor and it’s not a common word to be uttered by many. You will never hear a friend telling you,” The irradiance out here today is high.” It is just not a normal talk for us. Irradiance is basically a measure of the amount of sunlight a particular area/surface receives.

Simply put, the higher the irradiance on a solar panel, the more the solar energy produced by that panel. And herein lies the catch, the world is designed in such a way that this irradiance varies from place to place and time to time.

The fact is that irradiance varies throughout the day. The sun’s angle and position, moving clouds, bad weather, and air pollution all affect irradiance levels. Nonetheless, from year to year, the total amount of energy received from the sun remains relatively the same.

In fact, in a particular year, irradiance causes a variation of between 5-10% of the suns energy captured by the solar cells. So in designing solar systems, irradiance data, mostly from weather databases are used.

2. Shading

An absolute no-brainer. Solar energy is energy from the sun’s light. It thus follows that if solar panels are shaded, less electricity is produced. We all know shading – that moment when you need the sun to hit your body and a tree or a building is blocking you.

Solar panels also need direct sunlight that bad to produce much electricity. Of consideration, however, is that shading is not constant throughout the year, it varies seasonally.

A tree or a building that produces a shade at noon in March will not be the one that gives a shade to the same panels in September. The reason is, the sun has positional angles which change all through the year.

Meaning, trees, buildings and other barriers potentially become shading issues in different times of the year. Proper design can minimise all this.

3. Soiling

Quite straight forward. Dirty solar panels produce less power. Soiling here simply refers to dirt, dust, tree leaves, and any form of debris that settles on the surface of the panels.

When the debris settle on the surface of panels, they block the sunlight from reaching the solar cells hence impeding the solar system desired performance. Clean the system to get the best results.

4. Temperature

Of all the factors, this is the most interesting, and it’s because it’s not a no brainer as you may have thought. The warmer the solar cells get, the less the amount of electricity they produce.

You see, all of us might have had of conversations like this, “Man, this area is so hot, solar can do so well here.” Or, “This weather is too cold down here, I pity those who are using solar now.” Well, it turns out, the reverse is true. For the few who know the science behind electricity, it’s a game of electrons in motion.

The hotter the solar cell material is, the more resistance there is and the slower the electrons can move through it. Logically, electricity production reduces as not as many electrons can get through the circuitry in the same amount of time as before.

And this is where the question of quality best lies. The quality of the solar panels to be precise. High quality panels can maintain optimum performance even at high temperatures.

Hopefully, these factors have been an eye opener in this age of solar revolution. But, remember always, that the quality of panels and the system design is everything in solar energy production.

Intelligent Energy Management for homes

Energy as we know it is the ability to work and is available in many different forms. It is an influential and most discussed topic of our times since it affects our daily activities.

Electricity is one of the many energy forms and since its discovery more than 130 years ago; it has influenced the course of technological development in many areas that make our lives easier, more enriching and fulfilling.

Due to electricity, we are able to keep our food fresh for extended period. And via live television transmission we are able to keep abreast with what is happening half way round the world.

But in our daily consumption of this important energy form, we leave in our wake a lot of energy wastage. Which impacts negatively on the economy and our pockets.

Utility companies such as KenGen are forced to generate more power so as to meet the shortfall caused by the wastage. Many are the times we have all the lighting points in the house on in the middle of a bright sunny day or the iron box on when we are done with ironing.

In some cases we have oversized household appliances such as refrigerators that are anything but efficient in their running costs. Refrigerators and freezers consume about a sixth of all electricity in a typical home. These two appliances use more electricity than any other single household appliance at home.

Fortunately, refrigerators have gotten much more efficient in their energy use over the past 20 years. Today’s refrigerators use 60% less electricity on average than 20-year-old models. Engineers are working on improving the efficiency even further so as to bring down the running costs. Maintaining an old inefficient refrigerator at home may cost you as much as Ksh 20,000 a year in electricity bills alone. Above what an efficient modern refrigerator would cost.

Simple habits like switching off lights when not needed or that television set when we are not viewing it. Our major problem as far as energy use is concerned is that we don’t look beyond the catchy price tag on that appliance.

We forget that every appliance has two price tags. One tag is the purchase price on the equipment when you purchase it from the outlet. Another more critical price is the operating cost paid out month after month in the form of electricity bills.

We usually don’t look at the power consumption rating of the appliance we are buying. What most people don’t consider is that, 20 years down the line, the refrigerator or the television they purchased will still be working but they may find that they are spending much more money operating the appliance than they did buying it in the first place!

But energy saving besides being influenced by decisions we make when purchasing electrical appliances, has gone high tech through “smart metering” and intelligent energy management systems at home. Smart meters are intelligent devices that are used to measure electricity consumption.

In order to save energy, consumers need to be able to obtain up-to-date information at any time about the energy consumption of their appliances. They should also be able to control them even when away from home.

Smart meters

Smart meters make it possible for home owner to keep track (read) and control power consumption even remotely. The system can be controlled via personal computer or mobile phone. The household owner simply enters his/her preferences for different appliances and equipment such as lighting fixtures, cookers, refrigerators, microwaves, laundry machines and setting a limit on their maximum energy consumption.

The software uses this information. It assesses when and which devices in the household are to be switched on and off and at what time. The smart meter runs on the back of an intelligent energy management system that can also central lock all the household doors and windows.

Our current flat rate household power consumption pricing does not encourage smart metering. Although the fact that power is expensive, is a good enough incentive to save on energy.

Use of smart metering and intelligent energy management systems are rapidly making inroads in Kenya. Already some aspects of the two are in application in manufacturing, hospitality, and housing facilities across the country.

How much should an energy audit cost?

There are a lot of concerns on what is the appropriate fee for the various Energy Efficiency services. Of great interest are the energy audits.

I do not know what happens in other countries but in Kenya we still do not have a standard procedure to price our energy audits. CEEC through KAM has been doing energy audits though with subsidies from various donors.

This has largely affected the market since they act like a subsidized competitor to other freelance energy auditors. I suggest we consider the various dynamics to pricing of energy audits and hopefully develop some acceptable guidelines.

We can create some guideline to help auditors determine the price of the audit. This guideline can be followed by all energy auditors to ensure we do not undercut each other or dilute the energy auditing business.

I would suggest the following in determining the price:

1. The type of the audit

Is it general or investment grade? A minimum fee can be set for both.

2. Size of the facility

After agreeing on the fee for type of audit, we can combine it with size so that we have a fixed metric for it. For example; Ksh. 80 per sq ft. This can largely apply for buildings and closed unit manufacturing plants. This pricing method may not apply on open farms or large plantations.

3. Complexity of the facility

We can allow auditors to price higher for more complex facilities like hospitals, detention facilities or treatment plants. We can have a category of complex facilities and allow our auditors to price a little bit higher for such.

I know other things like experience of the auditor or audit firm counts but that can vary from consultant to consultant. We need to come up with costing system that is realistic to the various sectors/categories and also sufficiently remunerate consultants. Do we factor in turnover of the company or how much energy they consume in the pricing model? We can come up with various bands which reflect this.

How do we handle a group of companies with similar production processes/services? Or how do we handle a group but with units of different sizes? Do we offer discount in some cases? Also when we talk of energy, some facilities spend/consume more fuel than electricity hence tricky if one did costing based on electricity costs only.

Can consultants compute their fee per daily rate….man days/hours or as a lump sum? What does IEK/Ministry of public works state as professional fees for engineering consultants? What are the international rates especially for energy audits? Let me know your opinions and what you think we can do to create a pricing model for energy audits.

UNDERSTANDING BIOENERGY POTENTIAL

By Albert Odiyo

If you spent majority of your formative stages of life at the rural village like me then you must appreciate the value of bioenergy in meeting daily energy demands there like I do.

This was, and still remains to a large extent, the primary source of fuel for domestic heating. When evening hours approached, I could see my sisters preparing to fetch firewood, as it is popularly known, from the nearby bushes. This would serve as fuel for the preparation of the evening meal and even the morning breakfast the following day.

In the present day society, bioenergy has evolved and serves as a very important renewable energy source in Africa and around the world.  A recent study reviewing bioenergy  potential forecast reveals a  bandwidth of contribution to global primary energy from approximately 0-200 EJ in the timeframe of 2020-2030(UKERC 2011), while the latest assessment indicates 105-150 EJ by 2030(IRENA,2014).

Forms of bioenergy

Although technology has evolved around the conversion of biomass in to heat, certain fundamental factor still remains.  For example, the development of this traditional fuel still follows the basic principles such as high conversion efficiency, competitiveness and sustainability.

Biomass from Julifora

Biomass from Prosopis Juliflora tree

There are two forms of bioenergy in use today: traditional and modern. Traditional use of biomass includes fuelwood, animal waste and charcoal. Modern biomass technologies include liquid biofuel produced from straw and wood, industrial cogeneration and biorefineries, biogas produced from anaerobic digestion of residues, pellet heating systems and other technologies.

Bioenergy potential and use

Bioenergy, just like other renewable energy sources, plays an essential role in improving access to modern energy services, mitigating economic risk by ensuring energy security by contributing to reducing the risk of climate change by lowering emissions.

The world used approximately 51 Exajoules (EJ) of primary biomass in 2012, including 105 billion litres (2.5 EJ) of liquid biofuels (TFEC 2010). This equals 10% of global primary energy supply (IRENA 2014).However; it is projected that under current policies, bioenergy use will grow to 79 EJ by 2030, and biofuels to 287 billion litres. For the world to reach its international objective, the use of bioenergy needs to rise to 108 EJ in 2030, including biofuels growth to 650 billion litres.

All forms of renewable energy combined accounted for 9% of global energy consumption in 2010. This means that three quarters of the world current renewable energy use comes from bioenergy.

Bioenergy is widely believed to have the largest employment potential of any Renewable Energy Technology, as it is considerably more labor intensive than the other technologies.

Cultivation and harvesting biomass feedstock requires large numbers of people, whereas processing the feedstock into fuels generates considerably fewer jobs. (Urbanchuk, 2012) estimates that the bioenergy industry employed some 1.4 million people directly and indirectly in 2010.

More so than for other Renewable Energy Technologies, bioenergy employment reflects widely diverging skill and pay levels. This is because agricultural operations play a large role in the sector, and much of this employment is generally low skilled and also fluctuates seasonally.

Bioenergy Vis a Vis other RET

Biomass differs from other types of renewable energy in several ways. It needs a large amount of feedstock, which requires land and water. It is essential to grow biomass in a sustainable way which does not clash with other needs, such as food. Bioenergy is also the only source of renewable carbon which can serve as feed-stock for plastics and other synthetic organic materials and it can be stored with limited effort and low cost.

It is estimated that the average price of primary biomass will be USD 8.3 per gigajoule (GJ), less than half of today’s crude oil price but three times current coal prices. Today’s biomass markets are fragmented, and prices range from near zero or even negative for post-consumer waste, to more than USD 20 per GJ for pellets for residential use.

Energy content of Biomass Materials

The heat energy available in combustion, equivalent in practice to the enthalpy or the net energy density, ranges from about 8 MJ/kg (un-dried ‘green’ wood) and 15 MJ/kg (dry wood), to about 40 MJ/kg (fats and oils) and 56 MJ/kg (methane).

Biomass is, however, mostly carbohydrate material with a heat of combustion of about 20 MJ/kg. Biomass yield is approximately 10 t / ha / year which is equivalent to approximately 5 kW/ha.  Solar energy to biomass energy conversion efficiency is about 0.5%.

When used for cooking most of the biomass energy is wasted, as open fires are very inefficient with only ~5% of the available heat being used.

Carbon Neutrality

The attraction of biomass as a source of energy is that it is carbon-neutral, as the amount of carbon dioxide released in its combustion has been previously removed from the atmosphere when carbon dioxide was converted by photosynthesis into making the plant material. We therefore have a sustainable source with zero net production of carbon dioxide, provided we renew the biomass consumed.

It is important to take cognizant of the fact that overreliance on biomass fuel has some consequences. One of the effects of this is deforestation that significantly changes rainfall patterns leading to climate change. Secondly, there is the problem of soil erosion which is primarily caused by deforestation.

The issue of food crops being replaced by fuel crops is another concern. Therefore care must be taken to strike a balance between meeting todays energy demand vis a vis caring for the environment and safeguarding food security.

Conclusion

Finally, it is important to take cognizant of the fact that overreliance on biomass fuel has some consequences. One of the effects of this is deforestation that significantly changes rainfall patterns leading to climate change. Secondly, there is the problem of soil erosion which is primarily caused by deforestation.

Finally, the issue of food crops being replaced by fuel crops is another concern. Therefore care must be taken to strike a balance between meeting todays energy demand vis a vis caring for the environment and safeguarding food security.

3 Good Websites for Energy Engineers

I recently went for an oral licensing interview to become a Licensed Energy Auditor with our local regulator ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission). I still have not received my results yet but anytime from now I should know my fate.

The interview was a 3 stage step where the first part was an online interview followed by a written interview and finally, an oral interview.

I am not a fan of oral interviews and for me the oral interview was a sweaty affair. I found myself in unfamiliar territory especially when being questioned on areas I was not very strong.

The oral interview could have been worse had I not done an online energy course just few days before the interview.

As I anxiously wait for my interview results, I have been thoroughly reflecting on what went wrong and how possibly I could improve myself to become a better energy engineer.

I also noticed that some of the more experience and distinguished energy auditors did not make it past the written stage of the interview. Is it because they are dump? Obviously not! I probably guess the problem lies between the practical and theory worlds.

Most experienced energy auditors tend to focus more on the practical world and forget the fundamentals of energy saving calculation. For the young auditors (me included), we tend to focus more on the theory part and forget the practical aspects.

So what is the solution? We need to create a balance. We need bridge the gap. This applies to both experienced energy auditors and young professional growing in this field.

We need to get practical experience and at the same time use online courses to improve our knowledge. Below are two websites that I found most useful for energy courses;

1. Denby Energy

I found this site most useful. I did the commercial energy auditor training and the home energy audit course. The courses were simple, insightful and very practical. They offer certification after their online training. After the course, I did a free home energy audit course for a local orphanage just to save them some money and internalize the knowledge I had gained.

2. Viscar E learning Courses

For those who wish to have specific courses on Energy and Power, then this is the site to visit. Viscar Industrial Capacity have partnered with 360 degree to deliver a long list of power courses. The beauty of these courses is that they have lots of simulations, animations, quizzes, final assessments and certifications.

3. Learners TV

There is thousands of free downloadable lectures on this site. It is a great resource to those who want specific knowledge from professionals all over the world.

I know there are multiple other sites that offer great e-learning courses for energy engineers. Let us know of any good resource that we have not included.

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Kenya’s Nuclear Ambition

Understanding the nuclear energy

In 2011, the ministry of energy (MoE) announced plans for Kenya getting working nuclear power plant(s) within the next 15 years to provide power to actualize the country vision of being a middle level economy by year 2030.

Since the announcement was made and a working commission led by Hon. Ochillo Ayacko established to coordinate the process, a raging debate has been ignited pitting those for and against the idea.

For those supporting the idea, their argument is that the country needs a secured and cheaper energy supply source to meet the expected increase in power demand as the economy expands rapidly.

They also argue that, though comparatively expensive to set up and take long (12-15 years) to deliver its power to the consumers, the cost of nuclear generated power per kilowatt-hour is much less and stable as compared to other energy forms.

Those opposed to Kenya’s nuclear ambitions such as Achim Steiner of UNEP, have their misgivings on the cost, safety and security of nuclear technology. They do argue that putting up a nuclear power plant is an extremely expensive affair compared to other power generation technologies such as geothermal, wind and hydropower.

For a country struggling to meet the most basic of its infrastructure needs, going nuclear is a manifestation of misplaced priorities.

On the security front, those voicing concerns are worried about the country’s capacity to secure the proposed nuclear power plant(s) from such security threats like terrorists attack.

On safety, there is concern that in the event of a calamity either natural or manmade, the extent of the resultant devastation will be greater than what Ukraine suffered from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster or Japan suffered from Fukushima Daiichi power plant whose reactors were crippled after the plant was flooded with sea water following a massive tsunami.

There is also the issue of decommissioning costs of the plant(s) once they serve their economic lifetime. But in the midst of all this debate, what is nuclear energy and what are the facts about Kenya’s nuclear project?

Nuclear energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission. Once mined, the uranium ore is sent to a processing plant to be concentrated into enriched fuel (i.e., uranium oxide pellets).

The enriched fuel is then transported to a nuclear power plant. In nuclear power plant’s reactor, the neutrons from uranium atoms collide with each other, releasing heat and neutrons in a chain reaction. This heat is used to generate steam, which powers a turbine to generate electricity.

Every 18 to 24 months, nuclear power plants must shut down to remove and replace the “spent” uranium fuel rods. The spent fuel rods usually would have released most of its energy as a result of fission process therefore becoming radioactive waste.

Currently, spent fuel rods are stored at the nuclear power plants at which they are generated.  The storage is done either in steel-lined, concrete vaults filled with water or in above-ground steel or steel-reinforced concrete containers with steel inner canisters.

Enrichment of uranium ore into fuel and the operation of nuclear power plants generate low-level radioactive wastes. These wastes are usually shipped to specially designed and licensed disposal sites or for reprocessing.

According to Nuclear Electricity Development Project (NEDP) Commission, the country can generate between 1000 MW and 4000 MW of nuclear power at a cost of Ksh 360 billion and Ksh 1.4 trillion.

The approach is to have 4 nuclear power plants of a 1000 MW units each. Since nuclear power plants consume huge amounts of water, potential sites for the power plants will be at the Coast, Lake Victoria or inland rivers such as Tana.

Ultimately the site selected will significantly be affected by costs, public acceptance and safety considerations. The country nuclear program has three phases.

Phase one will be a pre-feasibility study where the assessors will put in place the scientific criteria of identifying the site where the nuclear plant(s) will be located.

Phase two will involve preparatory work to invite bids for the development of a nuclear power plant while phase three will be implementation phase that will result in the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Kenya.