Abstract / Description of output
Energy access and waste management are two of the most pressing developmental and environmental issues on a global level to help mitigate the accelerating impacts of climate change. They are particularly relevant in Sub–Saharan Africa where electrification rates are significantly below global averages and rural areas are lacking a formal waste management sector. This paper explores the potential of integrating solar energy into a biomass pyrolysis unit as a potentially synergetic solution to both issues. The full design of a slow pyrolysis batch reactor targeted at biochar production, following a strict cost minimization approach, is presented in light of the relevant considerations. SPEAR is powered using a Cassegrain optics parabolic dish system, integrated into the reactor via a manual tracking system and optically optimized with a Monte-Carlo ray tracing methodology. The design approach employed has led to the development an overall cost efficient system, with the potential to achieve optical efficiencies up 72% under a 1.5° tracking error. The outputs of the system are biochar and electricity, to be used for soil amendment and energy access purposes, respectively. There is potential to pyrolyze a number of agricultural waste streams for the region, producing at least 5 kg of biochar per unit per day depending on the feedstock employed. Financial assessment of SPEAR yields a positive Net Present Value (NPV) in nearly all scenarios evaluated and a reasonable competitiveness with small scale solar for electrification objectives. Finally, SPEAR presents important positive social and environmental externalities and should be feasibly implementable in the region in the near term.