Smart Home Energy: Development of an integrated and mobile solution for low-cost cooking and power generation – SHE
More than 45% of Africa's population lives in isolated rural communities. Rural energy needs have been met by biomass for many centuries, albeit in a traditional way, which is associated with high per capita fuel use / low thermal efficiency, health risks (smoke inhalation and fire risks), and natural deforestation due to the use of harvested wood as the primary fuel. In addition, over 70% of rural areas in Africa do not have adequate access to electricity. Therefore, there is an urgent need for an affordable smart energy device that can provide electricity and cook/heat to support grid independence and self-sufficiency. The project is thus aiming at the development of a Smart Home Energy (SHE) technology and to demonstrate the user effectiveness and impact in rural communities in South Africa and Uganda.
The SHE device will be based on an existing portable micro-gasifier cookstove which is used with compressed wood pellets, the currently available best performing cookstove regarding CO emissions. This basic stove concept for wood pellets was developed by Ekasi Energy together with TU Graz using a combined experimental approach and extensive CFD analyses. In this project the innovative SHE concept is developed addressing the main barriers that hinder the broad implementation of this technology, i.e. lack of electricity production and limits in fuel flexibility. This is achieved by combining for the first time:
1) Expanding fuel options to biomass pellets made from available agricultural residues and perennial energy crops as affordable and readily available fuels and burning these fuels in a manner that meets WHO cooking standards respectively with extremely low emissions and high efficiency.
2) Integrating a thermoelectric generator to generate electricity and connecting it to a solar panel and battery to power small appliances and lamps grid-independently.
3) Integration of a smart low-tech method to track CO2 emissions based on a database of relevant fuels to monitor the heat and electricity generated by the SHE unit and an algorithm that correlates this with fuel and CO2 savings.
The project work will be carried out through numerical and experimental research in the laboratory at TRL 3 & 4, followed by adaptations to local conditions, field tests and demonstrations under relevant local African conditions (TRL 5 & 6 (7)). It will further investigate and propose business models for deployment based on a socio-economic analysis of the targeted regions.
The results of the user feedback from demonstrations will be compared against a baseline study of the socio-economic conditions that exist and the expected impact of the SHE device will also be evaluated, accompanied by system optimizations.
As a result, we will have the unique SHE technology as an affordable energy solution for the poorest with the following advantages:
a) Reducing deforestation by substituting wood as fuel with fuels from energy crops and agricultural residues, which are sufficiently available in most African countries.
b) Minimizing health risks by eliminating harmful emissions from incomplete combustion,
c) Improve gender equality: By growing short rotation crops, women can meet their own energy needs, in addition to growing subsistence crops for food consumption.
d) A hybrid and flexible energy approach of electricity generation from two sources (Solar Panel and TEG) that complement each other in different climate, weather and local conditions.
e) A low-tech carbon tracking database for earning carbon credits to subsidize the device cost for rural users with little real disposable income.
Lastly, various sustainable business models for local fuel production and stove assembly will be evaluated to determine the viability of rural energy independence for cooking and electricity needs.
Madame Maria GONZALEZ MARTINEZ (INSTITUT MINES TELECOM)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
TUG Graz University of Technology, Institute of Thermal Engineering
TUT Tshwane University of Technology
MAK Makerere University
IMT MINES ALBI INSTITUT MINES TELECOM
EE EKASI Energy
CC Carbon Compass
Help of the ANR 541,888 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: June 2023 - 24 Months