Power to the people
08:27 (GMT+2), Fri , 02 September 2016

Elana Greyling

Electricity is getting more and more expensive and less and less reliable. 
The world is moving away from fossil fuels because of the irreversible impact it has had on the environment and the health and well being of people. Climate change has become a brutal reality in the past few seasons. 
In Europe, countries like Germany and Denmark have changed to renewable energy, giving up fossil fuels in favor of clean green energy.
Farmers have been electrifying farms for years and have inadvertently become dependent on power supplied by Eskom. There is, however, an alternative, something farmers have been exploring in some areas.
• Wind power:
For hundreds and hundreds of years people have harnessed the wind. The South African rural landscape is typified by the windmill pumping water for man and animal. Some of the older generations still remember the wind charger used to charge batteries. 
An American study showed that a wind-generating system in a house can save 1,2 tonnes of air pollution and 200 tonnes of greenhouse gasses. 
• Solar:
Installing solar panels can be expensive but, according to Iqeraan Petersen, solar energy costs around 70 cents/kWh, whereas power from Eskom’s Medupi and Kosile plants will cost around R1,20 to R1,30/kWh. Taking out a loan and paying off what would be your ordinary electricity tariff will save you money in the long run.
Storing solar energy, however, used to be a problem. Now invertors and batteries offer a solution for the home or small business owner. There are other innovative plans for big plants. Pump stations, where water is pumped to higher dams and then rushed down using both solar and water power, are already in use in SA, minus the solar part. There are also technologies using malt and salt or oil where solar power can be stored in the form of thermal energy, heating up the oil, malt or salt and then releasing the heat in the form of steam that turns turbines to generate power. Solar energy is getting cheaper by the day.
• Water power:
Uitlising the power of water must be explored, even in a water scarce area such as Limpopo.
• Biodigesters:
A biodigester is a device or structure in which the digestion of organic waste matter by anaerobic bacteria takes place with the production of a burnable biogas and nutrient rich slurry. Greenhouse gas emissions are limited because the methane gas is not set free in the air. 
Biodigesters can be made as low or as high tech as needed. The principal stays the same. Organic waste, sewage, animal dung, and kitchen waste, among others, are put into a closed (very strong) cylinder; it must be isolated from light and air for biodigestion to take place. A second cylinder or tight fitting cap catches the methane gas that can be used to cook or heat, or burned to heat water or generate steam to turn turbines to generate power.
A rich slurry is also created that can be used for fertilising gardens or crops.
All these can add value and save energy on any farm.
• Defecting:
It is not necessary to defect totally from the Eskom grid. Hopefully things in South Africa will soon change for the better when it comes to energy. Jason Schaffler, busy with research on renewable energy, believes there is no need in SA to build new coal-fired power stations or even think of the possibility of nuclear power.
With renewable energy, the gap can easily be filled at a reasonable price and a great benefit to nature, the environment and our own health.
He believes it is possible to go green and, in this way, provide power to our people.

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