Clean electricity from invasive trees in Namibia?

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AlertNet) – The area around Otjiwarongo in Namibia’s heartland is a green sea of short, shrubby trees as far as the eye can see. While beautiful to some, this bush is an invader species and seen by ranchers as a dreaded pest that pushes out nutritious grasses.

Since the 1950s, bad grazing practices have led to the bush taking over 26 million hectares of Namibia’s rangeland – an area the size of New Zealand. That costs the country’s beef farmers $160 million a year in lost earnings, in an industry that farmers say accounts for 3 to 6 percent to Namibia’s gross domestic product.

But what if the bush could be fed into a power plant, clearing land for grazing and simultaneously supplying Namibia with clean, renewable electricity in a region that is starved of energy?

“(Burning) wood to make electricity is one of the cheapest renewable energy options available,” said Robert Schultz, head of energy projects for the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), a think tank.

“And it is quick,” he said. “Sixty minutes after powering up the plant, kilowatts are flowing into the grid. This makes it suitable to meet unexpected peaks in demand.”

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Mickey Glantz Author

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