In Nigeria, pollution through industrial and domestic generating sets is unimaginable. Stories abound all over the country of how several families died of inhalation of carbonmonoxide from power generating sets, the nearly only reliable source of energy in a country of over 150 million people.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo pursued the agenda of making electricity stable in his eight-year reign by pumping several billions of naira into the energy sector, all to no avail. Darkness was simply amplified at the twilight of his regime. Then came the Yar’ Adua/Jonathan government in 2007 with the promise to arrest the nagging power problem. For almost a year after the inauguration of the present government, with the promise to fix power problem, Nigeria seems not near attaining uninterrupted power supply unlike Ghana, which attained the feat over 10 years ago.
Besides being the bedrock of industrialisation in any country, there is hardly any activity that can be successfully done in this 21st century without electricity. However, even the conventional way of generating power is fast becoming crude given its health and environmental implications. Species of several organisms are going into extinction owing to (in)human activities especially in the exploration of crude oil. Little wonder wise countries are going green by tapping energy from natural elements like wind, water, sun and wastes.
The recent World Meteorological Day marked on March 23 harped on the need to harness the benefits acruable from these natural phenomena. With the theme: “Powering our future with weather, climate and water,” experts reiterated on the need for stakeholders to explore renewable energies from the sun, water, wind and wastes (biogas) which they argued, would turn the tide of climate change.
Dr Kolapo Oluwasemire of the Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, underscored the need for government to harness energy potentials from nature, which, he said, were cheap and safe to embark on, stating that when tapped, the environment would become safer to live in. He kicked against the introduction of nuclear energy until renewable green sources of energy are fully explored and exhausted, citing Japan as a country Nigeria needs to learn from.
In the opinion of Professor Oladele Osibanjo, biogas for domestic cooking can be got from human faeces, saying that government has to really look inwards. “We cannot keep on importing everything. We can generate electricity from wastes. The Lagos State government is already doing that in Ikorodu. Our large population is an advantage which amounts to plenty generation of wastes,” he said.
The don in charge of Basel Covention Coordinating Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the African Region under the Federal Ministry of Environment, University of Ibadan Linkage Centre, said in recent times, people are looking at waste globally as a resource and not as a burden, adding that “we should start mining wastes now. Industries should be forced to recycle their wastes. The future lies on integrated waste management.”
Among renewable energies that can eliminate green house emission, which Nigerians should embrace fast, as earlier mentioned, are energy got from wind, sun, water and wastes. A brief look at the workings of all these may suffice here:
A version has it that the first documented wind turbine dates back to as early as 200BC in Persia; another version states that wind has been used for centuries for the purpose of generating electricity based on a published article in 1838 despite scientists’ claim that it is a new invention.
How it works
Wind energy, which is gaining global attention as a large scale energy source, is produced through the use of wind generators to harness the kinetic energy of wind. Wind turbines are made up of two to three blades connected to an electrical generator. As the wind spins, the blades, a shaft inside the top of the turbine (nacelle) spins while the shaft goes into the gear box which transfers the kinetic energy into electrical energy. Some wind turbines, for instance, operate at wind speed range of 8–56 mph.
Wind energy is producing less than one per cent of global energy consumption as it is said to, at present, meet about 1.5 per cent of global electricity generation. Scientists are said to be foreseeing a lot of potentials in wind energy source.
It is a sustainable energy source that has the potential to reshape the way electricity is generated in the 21st century. The generation and usage of wind power is believed to have doubled. According to the manual of Global Skypower Energy Limited based in Texas, USA, as well as Nigeria, wind turbine accounts for about eight per cent of all global electricity while Denmark, Spain and Portugal have a large amount of their energy generated from the wind.
Erecting wind turbines
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines used to generate electricity. Wind turbines are installed in an expanse of flat land with no trees that can pose a hindrance. They are also usually mounted on deep waters where wind is nonstop. This is to help the wind to actually penetrate through the turbine. Hence, Northern Nigeria stands a better chance of tapping and enjoying this renewable energy given the flat land the region is blessed with. States also blessed with deep waters like the Niger Delta states can tap into this green energy revolution. Global Sky Energy Limited, according to Dr Ogunbanwo, will be bringing wind turbine manufacturing plant into Nigeria before the end of 2012, where wind turbines will be assembled for the benefits of Nigerians.
Countries harnessing renewable energy
Reports have it that a small Island in Denmark is trying to answer the question with a resounding yes, as they power up every single day via nothing but wind power. The Danish island is the ideal setting as the wind literally never stops blowing. The North Sea offers the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the winds that come off the sea and for them to use wind power as their primary source of power.
The wind power that they are using is said to be their sole source of power.
Asian countries are also trying to embrace clean and green energy. For instance, South Korea is into off-shore wind farm amounting to $8.3 billion. This project, which is being executed at the western coast of the Korean peninsula, according to reports, will take a period of 10 years. In 2011, The Empire State Building, one of the world’s largest building, became the largest buyer of wind power that will be using 100 kWh of wind energy in the nearest future.
Speaking with Dr Demola Ogunbanwo,Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Global Skypower Energy Limited, wind power operates through the use of turbine of about 60 to 80 metres in height with a blade span of almost 80 metres. Ogunbanwo, who said his company has installed wind turbines in the Middle east, South America, United States and European countries, noted that he was in Nigeria to build wind turbines for one of the biggest churches in Lagos, Nigeria.
It is believed that wind power capacity growth will be reaching 447GW in the next five years and by the end of 2014, Asian countries are envisaged to lead the world in installed wind capacity. ENERCON is among manufacturers who are focusing on 3MV-class wind turbines based on E-82/2.0. Without increasing the component sizes, there are new designs to operate at 3MW power. The company claimed that there will be a three to six per cent of increased yield because of these innovative designs.
Scientists are yet to decide which of solar and wind energies is a better source of energy. But scientists at Washington State University in the US have been able to combine solar power and wind power to generate plenty energy which they called solar wind power believed to be able to satisfy all energy needs of the human race.
Cost and maintenance
Communal efforts are necessary for the installation of wind turbines which does not mean that an individual cannot own one. Corporate bodies, states and local governments are the best bet to grab the opportunity. This is because of the initial cost implications. The one being installed for the mega church in Lagos, Dr Ogunbanwo said, costs about million dollars (i.e N150 million naira). The church, at present, is said to spend between eight and nine million naira monthly on diesel to power its three generating plants.
On maintenance, in less dusty areas, routine maintenance is once in three years just to lubricate the blades and eliminate dust to enhance effectiveness of the propellers. In a relatively dusty clime like Nigeria, an annual routine maintenance is advised. “Maintenance is around N100,000 annually and for solar, it is less than N25,000 annually. The solar only needs tune-up for the battery and inverters,” Ogunbanwo stated, adding that “the LED light that is associated with solar is guanranteed for 15 years up to 75,000 hours of usage before replacing the bulb.”
Types of wind turbines
Wind turbines go by watts. Some, especially the Home Made Type, which can be installed in an open rural area, on tall buildings in cities, on roof tops, coastal areas and along cliffs or facing the ocean. There are also floating wind turbines, offshore wind turbines, among others. The ones Dr Ogunbanwo is shipping to Nigeria soon are big ones that come with 500kW up to 3MW of power.
Advantages of wind turbines
Demand for energy is increasing by the day as it has become the pivot of all environmental issues all over the world. Renewable energy is environmental friendly and reduces a lot of carbonmonoxide which people breathe in on a daily basis. No green house emissions.
According to Dr Ogunbanwo, in a country that taps into renewable energy, it will reduce or perhaps eliminate pollution to the barest minimum, which means that the quality of air one breathes in will be pure and free of emission of toxic carbonmonoxide from generating sets.
Another advantage of renewable energy like solar and wind turbine is that an end will come to power failure on a daily basis. In other words, Wind Energy has high working reliability – solar energy in interaction with the Earth’s surfaces creates the winds and as long as the sun is up there, wind is a reliable energy source. This is because with wind turbine, as long as there is wind, electricity will be generated based on the flow of wind. Also, as long as there is sunlight, there will be power. So, if there is no sun, the wind takes over and if there is no wind, the sun takes over.
Besides, an end comes to paying outrageous electricity bills that one did not comsume. The cost of buying fuel to power generating sets is also eliminated, as wind power has no fuel cost. It helps small businesses to save millions of naira every month from fuel.
Where connected to the energy grid, it is possible to feed excess domestic wind power into it. Home Wind Turbines are one of the lowest-priced home made energy for the long term. Wind turbine, especially Home Wind Turbines, are made from lightweight, weather-proof material and are easy and fast to install apart from the fact that they are pollution-free.
One great challenge is initial finance, as turbines, generators and other equipment amount to 80 per cent of the costs. But once set up, wind energy becomes one of the easiest energy sources to maintain.
Environmentalists often loathe green energy like wind turbines because they kill birds, bats and other flying creatures that collide with the blades. They also generate noise if they are sited near residential areas.
It is believed that wind is not always available all through the year, so it does not guarantee energy on demand as fossil fuels would. However, this problem is tackled by alternating with solar power since the two are complementary.
Therefore, taking up solar and wind power together can provide a wholistically reliable source of energy on demand.
By Ebenezer Adurokiya, www.tribune.com.ng/