Kenpro Biogas for Schools Initiative: A Sustainable Cooking Energy Solution


By Anthony M. Wanjohi and Peter Gichini
Kenya Projects Organization
P.O. Box 15509-00503, Mbagathi, Nairobi-Kenya
Corresponding Author Email: [email protected]

Access to sustainable energy sources is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 7) and fostering sustainability in Kenya, particularly in the context of educational institutions. The introduction of biogas technology in schools presents a transformative solution, addressing energy needs while simultaneously promoting environmental conservation, enhancing educational outcomes, and fostering community development. Kenpro Biogas for Schools is a comprehensive initiative designed to revolutionize the energy landscape in Kenyan schools, particularly in rural and underserved areas. The initiative aims to improve accessibility to clean and affordable cooking energy and, to promote environmental and educational sustainability for enhanced educational outcomes in schools.


1.0 BACKGROUND
Over years, Kenya has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable practices and renewable energy sources to address the challenges of energy access and environmental conservation. Biogas is a source of renewable energy that was introduced in Kenya in the 1950’s. Biogas is a methane-rich gas produced by anaerobic digestion, which breaks down organic matter in the absence of oxygen (Sara, 2017).

Human waste bioreactors require a large amount of raw material in order to consistently produce biogas. When biogas production from human waste is compared to that of cows, a single cow’s waste can produce enough biogas to cook for 1.5 hours per day, whereas a human’s waste can only produce biogas for 2 to 3 minutes each day, this is equivalent to one cow produce waste equivalent to that of ten people. The reduced production levels are due to human wastes’ is lack of many nutrients as compared to that of animals as a result of a more efficient digestive system (SISTEMA BIO, 2018). As a result, human waste, biogas system requires to be setup in areas where there is abundant of the raw material. Areas such as schools and municipal sewage are prime locations to set up human waste biogas plants.
Schools in Kenya harbor large portion of the population, with estimates putting the figures around 13.36 million school going children and students in 2019. With the average school population being around 273 children per school. These numbers can effectively produce adequate and regular feed for the biogas system (Welp, 2021). A properly feed human biogas plant can successfully support and sustain school energy needs. Installation of a human biogas system offers several uses in such setting.

Kenpro Biogas for Schools initiative addresses the energy needs of schools in Kenya by implementing biogas systems, utilizing locally available organic waste resources. Over years, Kenpro has been in the frontline in promoting green energy solutions. The organization has been providing both theoretical and technical in the installations of biogas systems at household and institutional levels. This is driven by an understanding that biogas technology offers a sustainable solution to the energy challenges faced by communities especially in developing countries like Kenya. Thus, by harnessing biogas for cooking, heating, and electricity generation, Kenpro Biogas for Schools (KBS) initiative aims to improve accessibility to clean and affordable cooking energy (SDG 7) and, to promote environmental and educational sustainability for enhanced educational outcomes in schools.

2.0 PROPOSED PROJECT DETAILS
2.1 Statement of Need
Biogas systems in Kenyan schools has been gaining momentum, albeit at a relatively slow pace. Several initiatives and projects have been launched to promote the adoption of biogas technology in schools, primarily driven by government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international development partners. In Kenya, access to sustainable energy sources remains a pressing concern, particularly in educational institutions, where inadequate energy infrastructure hampers learning outcomes and exacerbates environmental degradation. The reliance on traditional fuels like firewood and charcoal not only perpetuates energy poverty but also contributes to deforestation, indoor air pollution, and climate change. In light of these gaps, there is an urgent need to introduce alternative energy solutions, such as biogas technology in schools. Thus, Kenpro Biogas for Schools (KBS)” initiative seeks to improve accessibility to clean, affordable cooking energy and to promote environmental sustainability for enhanced educational outcomes in Kenyan schools.

2.2 Project Goal and Objectives
2.1 Project Goal
Kenpro Biogas for Schools (KBS) initiative aims to improve accessibility to clean and affordable cooking energy and, to promote environmental and educational sustainability for enhanced educational outcomes in schools.

2.2 Project Objectives

Kenpro Biogas for Schools Initiative seeks to achieve the following objectives:

a) Introduction of Biogas Technology in schools: The primary objective of the project is to introduce biogas technology in schools across Kenya.

b) Alleviation of Energy Poverty: By implementing biogas systems, the project aims to alleviate energy poverty in schools, reducing reliance on traditional fuels such as firewood and charcoal.

c) Enhancement of Educational Environment: The project seeks to enhance the educational environment in schools by providing a sustainable and reliable energy source. Access to biogas will facilitate improved learning outcomes and student performance, creating conducive conditions for academic excellence.

d) Promotion of Environmental Sustainability: Through the utilization of organic waste, including kitchen scraps and animal manure, as feedstock for biogas digesters, the project aims to promote environmental sustainability.

e) Empowerment through Education and Innovation: The project aims to empower students and communities with knowledge and skills in renewable energy technologies, thus promoting a culture of innovation and environmental stewardship among students.

2.3 Target Beneficiaries

Schools: The primary beneficiaries of the project are educational institutions across Kenya, particularly those in rural and underserved areas. These schools face significant challenges related to energy access, which impact teaching and learning activities. By implementing biogas systems, schools can improve their energy security, reduce operational costs, and create a conducive learning environment for students and teachers.

Parents: Parents of students attending schools participating in the project also stand to benefit. With the introduction of biogas technology, schools can reduce their reliance on expensive and environmentally harmful energy sources such as firewood and charcoal. This, in turn, may alleviate financial burdens on parents who may otherwise be required to contribute to fuel expenses or provide firewood for cooking meals at school.

Community: The broader community surrounding participating schools will experience positive spillover effects from the implementation of biogas systems. Reduced deforestation and indoor air pollution associated with traditional energy sources benefit community health and environmental sustainability. Additionally, the project may create opportunities for community engagement and involvement in renewable energy initiatives, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in local development efforts.

Government: Government entities at various levels, including local, regional, and national authorities, are key stakeholders in the success of the project. By promoting the adoption of biogas technology in schools, the project aligns with government priorities related to energy access, environmental conservation, and education. Government support may include policy frameworks, financial incentives, technical assistance, and coordination efforts to scale up biogas deployment in schools across the country. Furthermore, the project’s emphasis on education and sustainability contributes to broader national development objectives, including the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG7) and Kenya’s Vision 2030 agenda.

2.4 Project Implementation Strategy

Technology and Design: Kenpro Biogas for School (KBS) initiative spearheads the implementation of sustainable energy solutions in schools using fixed dome biogas plants design. This type of biogas system uses anaerobic digester for the production of biogas from organic materials such as animal manure, crop residues, kitchen waste, and other biomass. It consists of a sealed, dome-shaped chamber constructed from concrete or brick masonry, which serves as the digester tank. . Figure 1 shows a fixed dome biogas plant design, a modified GGC2047 model which is based on a Chinese type fixed-dome digester (Vögeli, Lohri, Gallardo, Diener & Zurbrügg, 2014).

 

Fig 2: Installed Fixed dome biogas plant      Source: Kenpro, 2024

In a school setting, Kenpro Biogas for School initiative champions the operation of fixed dome biogas plants to efficiently process various types of organic waste generated on the premises. Kitchen scraps, food leftovers, agricultural residues, and even students’ feces from toilet facilities are collected and directed into the digester. Within this digester, anaerobic fermentation transforms the waste with the help of bacteria, resulting in the production of methane-rich biogas. This valuable resource is then captured and stored in the gas holder or dome positioned above the digester, ready to be utilized to meet the school’s energy needs, particularly in the kitchen for cooking meals.

The system converts organic waste into valuable energy resources, highlighting the circularity of sustainable practices. The digestate produced as a byproduct of biogas production is utilized effectively as organic fertilizer, enriching the soil in the school garden. This holistic approach not only addresses energy and waste management challenges but also serves as a powerful educational tool for promoting sustainable practices and environmental awareness among students and staff, fostering a culture of stewardship and resource conservation within the school community.

2.5 Project Activities

Needs Assessment and Site Selection

  • Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify schools that would benefit most from biogas technology based on factors such as energy needs, availability of organic waste, community support, and geographical location.
  • Select suitable sites within identified schools for the installation of fixed dome biogas digesters, considering factors such as space availability, proximity to sources of organic waste (e.g., kitchen waste, animal manure), and accessibility for maintenance.
  • Develop detailed construction plans, including specifications for the biogas digester, inlet/outlet pipes, gas collection system, and safety features, ensuring compliance with relevant standards and regulations.

Procurement and Construction

  • KBS team procures materials and equipment required for the construction of fixed dome biogas digesters, including concrete, bricks, piping, gas storage tanks, and safety devices.
  • Mobilize skilled labor and local construction teams to carry out the installation of biogas systems according to the approved design plans, adhering to best practices for structural integrity, gas tightness, and safety measures.
  • Provide hands-on training and technical assistance to construction workers, school staff, and community members involved in the installation process, emphasizing safety protocols and proper construction techniques.

Commissioning and Testing

  • Conduct testing and commissioning of biogas digesters upon completion of construction to ensure functionality, gas production, and system integrity.
  • Verify the gas quality, flow rate, and pressure within the biogas system, making necessary adjustments or repairs as needed to optimize performance and efficiency.
  • Train school administrators, teachers, and students on the operation, maintenance, and safety procedures for biogas utilization, including gas stove operation, waste feeding practices, and emergency protocols.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

  • Establish routine maintenance schedules and protocols for monitoring and maintaining fixed dome biogas systems, including regular inspections, cleaning, and troubleshooting of components.
  • Train designated school personnel or maintenance teams to conduct basic repairs and preventive maintenance tasks, such as sealing leaks, replacing worn-out parts, and monitoring gas production.
  • Provide ongoing technical support and capacity building opportunities to school stakeholders, empowering them to sustainably manage and operate biogas systems over the long term.

2.6 Sustainability

In the context of sustainability, a fixed dome biogas plant in a school offers multiple layers of benefit that contribute to environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Firstly, by converting organic waste into biogas, the plant reduces the school’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels, thereby mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. This transition to cleaner energy sources aligns with global sustainability goals (SDG7) and promotes a greener, more sustainable future. Additionally, the utilization of biogas for cooking and other energy needs reduces operating costs for the school, freeing up financial resources for educational programs and infrastructure development. Furthermore, the integration of students’ waste into the waste feedstock exemplifies a closed-loop approach to waste management, where organic materials are repurposed and recycled within the local ecosystem. This circular economy model minimizes waste generation, conserves resources, and fosters a culture of environmental stewardship and responsibility among students and staff. Moreover, the use of digestate as organic fertilizer enriches the soil, promotes crop growth, and enhances agricultural productivity, contributing to food security and sustainable land management practices. Overall, a fixed dome biogas plant in a school embodies the principles of sustainability by addressing energy needs, reducing waste, and fostering environmental consciousness within the school community, thereby creating a more resilient and sustainable learning environment for future generations.

2.7 Project Outcomes
Environmental Benefits

  • Successfully mitigated greenhouse gas emissions and combated climate change by reducing methane emissions from decomposing organic waste.
  • Promoted environmental sustainability and resource conservation by decreasing reliance on non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels.
  • Effectively minimized the school’s ecological footprint through the implementation of sustainable waste management practices, diverting organic waste from landfills.

Economic Benefits

  • Achieved cost savings by utilizing biogas for various energy needs within the school, thereby lowering energy expenses.
  • Successfully converted organic waste into valuable biogas and organic fertilizer on-site, resulting in significant savings on waste disposal fees.
  • Freed up financial resources within the school budget, allowing for investment in educational programs, infrastructure improvements, and other priority projects.

Educational Benefits

  • Provided students with hands-on learning opportunities in waste management, energy production, and environmental conservation activities.
  • Enhanced the school curriculum by integrating sustainability topics into classroom lessons, fostering a deeper understanding of renewable energy and waste reduction.
  • Empowered students to actively engage in sustainability initiatives and environmental advocacy efforts, nurturing a culture of responsibility and leadership within the school community.

Community Engagement

  • Engaged various stakeholders, including students, teachers, parents, and community members, in collaborative efforts to address environmental challenges and promote sustainable development.
  • Established partnerships with local organizations, government agencies, and businesses to support the successful implementation of the biogas project.
  • Raised awareness about sustainable practices within the broader community, inspiring collective action towards building a more environmentally conscious society.

Health and Sanitation

  • Improved indoor air quality by reducing the reliance on traditional biomass fuels for cooking and heating purposes.
  • Enhanced sanitation and hygiene standards by safely managing organic waste, thereby minimizing health risks associated with improper waste disposal practices.

Long-Term Sustainability

  • Established a self-sustaining cycle of waste management, energy production, and soil enrichment through the continuous operation of the biogas plant.
  • Developed institutional capacity and expertise within the school community to ensure the maintenance and expansion of the biogas project over time.
  • Inspired future generations of students to champion sustainability and become agents of positive change within their schools, communities, and beyond.

3.0 BUDGET ESTIMATE

The cost of constructing a fixed dome biogas plant can vary depending on several factors such as size, location, materials used, labor costs, and specific design requirements. However, the following comprises of a rough estimate based on typical costs for constructing biogas plants in similar contexts. 

Materials: The primary materials needed for constructing a fixed dome biogas plant include concrete or brick masonry for the digester tank, as well as piping, fittings, and seals. The cost of materials will depend on local prices and availability. 

Labor: Labor costs for construction will depend on local wages and the complexity of the project. The construction of a biogas plant typically requires skilled labor for masonry work, plumbing, and installation of gas collection systems. 

Equipment and Tools: Specialized equipment and tools may be required for excavation, concrete mixing, and construction. These costs can vary depending on whether equipment is rented or purchased. 

Transportation and Logistics: Transporting materials and equipment to the construction site may incur additional costs, including fuel and vehicle rental expenses. These costs will depend on the distance to the site and local transportation rates.

Contingency: It’s advisable to include a contingency fund of 10-20% of the total estimated cost to account for unforeseen expenses or changes in project scope. 

The table below shows a tabulation of cost implication of constructing a 16M3 and 24M Biogas Plants for schools in Kenya. The biogas sizes may vary depending on various parameters including the amount of waste produced per day and use.

Table 1: 16M3 and 24M3 Biogas Plants Construction Costs

Plant Size Digester Size Gas Production Per Day (in M3) No. of Cooking Hrs/day/1 burner Cost Estimates in KES Cost Estimates in Dollars
16 12 4 10 320,000 2,500
24 18 6 15 480,000 3,700

Source: Kenpro, 2024

These figures are approximate and can vary significantly depending on factors such as location, scale, local market conditions, and specific project requirements. Conducting a detailed feasibility study and obtaining quotes from suppliers and contractors will provide a more accurate cost estimate for implementing a fixed dome biogas plant. Additionally, exploring potential funding sources and incentives can help offset some of the expenses associated with the project.

REFERENCES
Olunga, I. B. (2017). Potentials for Anaerobic Digestion of Sewage for Energy Production and Environmental Protection in Secondary Schools of Kakamega County, Kenya.

Sara, T. (2017). Fact Sheet-Biogas: Converting Waste to Energy.

Sawa, P., (2012). Biogas Project Helps Kenyan School Save Money, and Trees, The Christian Science Monitor. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change

SISTEMA BIO (2018). Bio digestion for sanitation: Human waste versus animal waste.

Welp, J. (2021). The Progress and Potential of Education in Kenya. https://borgenproject.org/potential-of-education-in Kenya.


To collaborate in this Kenpro Biogas for Schools Initiative, kindly contact Kenpro Biogas Program Team or Call the program lead via 0725788400