Monday, March 4, 2024

New solar heating water technology beckons

By Arnold Letsholo

A local Non-governmental Organization (NGO), Green Energy and Sustainability Association (GESA) is considering importing a water heating technology.

To date only Morocco and Kenya have adopted the technology in the whole of the African continent.

GESA founding Chairperson, Obuile Morewane, says the technology; ‘Thermodynamic solar water heating’ is a ‘game changer’ as it is far much better than the conventional water solar heating system.

“It takes 25 years to start maintaining and it gives you 85 per cent guaranteed energy savings. It has got options for disinfecting the water,” he claims.

Morewane adds that the technology has vacation option which ensures that it does not run while you are away on vacation.

“It can be set for temperatures enabling it not to heat water excessively as does the conventional system. It does not depend solely on the sun to heat water but on temperature differences,” explains Morewane.

He says the thermodynamic panels are similar to air-source heat pumps and work like refrigerators in reverse. The panels absorb heat from the atmosphere to convert a refrigerant into a gas. That then passes through a compressor ÔÇô which boosts its temperature ÔÇô and is used to heat water. The refrigerant enters the panel at a temperature of between -20C and -30C, so even on cold days the panels can absorb relative warmth from the air.

Morewane highlights that from the time they were founded in 2018, members of his association have been helping society to understand why renewable energy technologies should be adopted.

“Our mandate as an association founded by engineers and environmental scientists is to facilitate renewable energy technologies in Botswana,” he says.

He says one of the campaigns they have successfully executed is the one themed; ‘Green University Campaign’, whereby they went around tertiary institutions informing students about opportunities that existed in the renewable energy industry.  The association has gone further to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with one of the local universities for the sake of exposing students to renewable technologies.

“We want people to know that though climate change came with problems and challenges, it also creates some opportunities. We also reach rural areas where climate change impacts are felt more. We go around advising them on the importance of conservation and alternatives to utilizing resources like trees. We have advanced steps to start a pilot biogas project in Gakuto,” he says.

He adds that they intend training ten people in the village who would later maintain the project as they will be certificated, they would earn a living out of implementing biogas projects.

An energy systems engineer, Morewane says their association intends to, through projects implementations, remove the false impression that renewable energy is not for Botswana because some projects that the government piloted failed.

He cites as examples the Phakalane solar plant and the Sekhutlane biogas project as well as several other solar energies that were installed in government buildings like schools.

Such had their own short-comings which had nothing to do with the industry’s success in Botswana.  As the association they preach clean energy and their mandate in this regard is to ensure it is professionally implemented.

He decries the fact that there are no standards and regulations for this sector though the government has established the Independent Power Producers. This, he observes is a contributory factor in the financiers’ reluctance to fund renewable energy.

The association is working hard to ensure standards and regulations are developed.

“So in the year 2019, one of our resolutions is to write letters to Banks so that we can sit down and discuss the way forward in support of clean energy. Renewable energy technologies are businesses like any other. Take risks of funding a farming project for instance. Almost similar initiatives can be taken with this industry as well,” he says.

He bemoans the fact that Batswana seem to act divergently to what is written down.

“A lot of international agreements have been signed including those on energy technologies. The vision 2036 states that Botswana would have covered 25 per cent by 2030. Striving for this would mean improved lives as energy would be boosted locally, manufacturing industry also guaranteed and employment creation achieved. But when the minister responsible visited Mozambique last year it seemed the government plans importing energy” he observes.

“Are we forced to go green or we feel we have to as a country?”He asks rhetorically.


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