Electrician generates light from food waste

An electrician has developed a domestic waste biogas system that uses food wastes, in a discovery that has now expanded the list of raw sources of generating power through biogas as prices of electricity hit the roofs.

The conception of the new biogas system is a product developed out of curiosity. According to Daniel Thairu the brains behind the technology the idea was conceived in 2003 as he made routine inspection of his newly constructed house. “I was just checking on the pit I had dug for the drainage system of the house and noticed some bubbles in the waste water. Since I had some slight knowledge about biogas, I became more interested in determining whether the bubbles were as a result of the methane gas that is produced from the biogas systems,” explained Thairu.

He trapped the bubbles with an improvised pipe and his curiosity was settled the following morning when he lit the gas producing a blue flame. From this remote discovery, Thairu was optimistic and vowed to take translate his idea to action. However, his meager income could not materialize the idea to a workable stage and the ambitious man’s dream was only made true through a grant from National Science and Technology.

“The funding enabled me source for all the needed materials for the construction of the first prototype which was finalized in 2011.” In addition, Thairu had realized better ways of efficiently producing the methane gas using domestic wastes like food leftovers, vegetable peelings among others.

The domestic biogas digesters are mainly made from plastic tanks unlike the conventional cow dung digesters that are a product of brick and mortar. Thairu explained that his digester system has an extended shelf life of over 40 years and that it uses very minimal wastes. “After installing the plant, Thairu first introduces bacteria culture into the digester which he noted that helps in the decomposition process to produce methane gas.

“For a 1000litres digester tank, one needs only two kilograms of food wastes per day which in turn is able to produce methane gas that can burn for over two hours.” According to him, this is huge efficiency level of the technology compared to the other conventional cow dung digester that demands over 15kilograms of cow dung for a similar output of gas.

The birth of Thairu’s innovation has been revered by many environmental conservationists as it is deemed to be the ideal solution for the waste disposal menace especially in urban centers. The technology will also eliminate the myth that only a few farmers endowed with cows can enjoy the benefits of the biogas system because of its ability to produce methane gas using food wastes. 

Thairu has installed about 12 units for urban dwellers in Ruiru, Nanyuki and Kiambu. The cost of installation for the digester is about Sh35000 although it may be lower depending on materials in question and their availability.

Thairu’s innovation is a welcome to most urban dwellers coming at a time when power charges are set to be revised upwards by the beginning of July 2014. The strength and the promise of cheaper source of energy from the innovation saw Thairu being nominated among the top ten finalists for Africa Innovation Awards.