Turning cocoa bean waste into electricity for off-grid West African villages

   
   
Cocoa Pod husks 445 x 124
06 Mar 2019 08:09:14.820

A new green technology to generate electricity from discarded cocoa pod husks is set to benefit African farming communities currently with little or no access to grid power. 

The project, led by the University of Nottingham, aims to spawn an entirely new bio-fuel industry that would also improve socio-economic stability for cocoa producers in rural Ghana.

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“Ghana is the second highest producer of cocoa in the world and every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks. In the past, this waste material was underutilized,” explains principal investigator, Jo Darkwa, Professor of Energy Storage Technologies in the Faculty of Engineering. 

“However, feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable bio-fuels; an important energy supply for rural areas that have only 15 per cent electricity coverage at present. If successful, this new bio-energy infrastructure would support the Ghanaian government’s aim for universal access to electricity by 2030.”

The Implementation of Bio-Rural Energy Scheme (IBRES) project, backed by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund, aims to makes practical and economic use of the discarded cocoa pod husks.

In addition to energy production and distribution, local jobs would emerge for the collection and transportation, treatment, storage and processing of this potentially lucrative byproduct. A community energy cooperative model will also help the farmers to make money from their new bio-energy source and hence reduce poverty.

The main tasks of the project are to: 

1. Characterise the four different types cocoa pods commonly farmed in six regions of Ghana for their use as bio-fuels 

2. Design, build and evaluate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns cocoa pod husks - a waste product in production – in a gasification system, which includes a gasifier, a 5kWe diesel generator set, a solar drier and pelletiser 

3. Develop guidelines for setting up full-scale bio-energy schemes and their integration into rural communities 

4. Investigate stakeholders’ perceptions of the bio-energy scheme 

5. Develop community co-operatives and governance structures for cocoa-producing regions 

In addition to Professor Darkwa, the Nottingham-led project team involves Dr John Calautit, Dr Mark Worall, Dr Yuehong Su and Nii Nelson, of the Buildings, Energy and Environment (BEE) Research Group; Dr Alison Mohr, from the Institute of Science and Society; Dr Karen Robertson from the Advanced Materials Research Group and the School of Chemistry’s Professor Robert Mokaya.  

Nottingham academics are also collaborating with the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (CEESD) Ghana, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana where the bio-power unit will be installed and monitored by researchers. 

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the  2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

 

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Jo Darkwa, Department of Architecture and Built Environment on +44 (0)115 95 13156 or J.Darkwa@nottingham.ac.uk
EmmaLowry

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.lowry@nottingham.ac.uk  Phone: +44 (0)115 846 7156  Location: University Park

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