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Christopher Balino, William Day, Nathan Kutka, Nelly Nganga

Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Abstract of Currie, Tasmania. Each settlement has an assumed

(arbitrary) population with 100 homes, and energy
An increased awareness of negative effects on the calculations based on maintaining constant temperature in a
environment from power sources such as coal and oil has house subject to heat loss through the windows. Average
increased desire to implement more sustainable methods to temperature data are used to calculate energy input
ensure long-term sustainability. The goal of this report is to requirements, and these are compared with the proposed
determine the feasibility of powering small isolated towns renewable systems to draw conclusions about their
with sustainable energy sources. The two sustainable suitability. Geographic, logistic, regulatory, environmental
energy sources selected and their respective locations are and general economic considerations are also included in
biofuel in Kithimani, Kenya and tidal power in Currie, the evaluation of the systems.
Tasmania, Australia. Assuming the heat loss only occurred
through the windows, both methods were sufficient to Background
supply the towns with power. These methods were further
analysed, taking into consideration the geographic and Biofuel Power in Kithimani, Kenya
logistics, regulatory and economic, environmental and
social aspects that were relative to their respective area. Biofuel in the form of wood is Kenyas main energy
Replacing the single paned windows with double-paned source, accounting for 70% of national requirements [3].
windows was also considered, as it would reduce the load This proportion is forecast to grow in the future, with wood
on the system. The costs of running the system based on being a critical energy source for small-scale rural
power used were also considered and analysed. It was industries, as well as being the standard cooking fuel and
concluded that both sources were viable, although there currently providing 90% of rural household energy needs
were some factors that could discourage the use of the [4]. Biomass (predominantly wood and charcoal) also
systems, such as the area used by biofuel, however this was drives key large-scale industries, in particular cement
determined to be within acceptable limits. manufacture, food processing, and Kenyas lucrative tea
industry [5]. In rural villages, current fuel wood
Introduction consumption is estimated at 5-10kg per household per day
[5]. Kenyas biomass fuel sources include different forest
Continued depletion of fossil fuels drives a growing need formations such as wood/grass lands, industrial plantations,
for sustainable energy development. The damaging effects farms with natural vegetation and residues from crops and
of large-scale carbon dioxide emissions are increasingly wood based industries [5]. Government agencies are
apparent, and governments and communities worldwide are exploring various development proposals in order to
experiencing heightened urgency to slow and ultimately capitalise on these resources and increase biomass energy
eliminate reliance on harmful energy sources. Currently output.
fossil fuels account for ~85% [1] of the primary energy
consumption worldwide with emissions including many Tidal Power in Currie, Tasmania, Australia
harmful greenhouse gases, heavy metals and other
pollutants as well as carbon dioxide. Although fossil fuels Currie, Tasmania is a township on the western coast of
are technically a renewable resource formed by natural Island, which is an Island south of the Australian mainland.
processes, consumption has far exceeded the natural King Island is located halfway between Victoria and
formation rate in modern times, leading to a situation of mainland Tasmania at the western entrance to the Bass
extreme environmental impact as well as rising energy Strait. Currie has a population of about 700 permanent
prices. Damage from pollutants to the atmosphere, residents, and the main energy source in the town is diesel
farmland and water sources, combined with increasing and wind power [6]. Most of Curries electricity is
economic costs as deposits shrink, is putting significant generated by The Currie Power Station which includes one
pressure particularly on rural and remote communities 1200kW and three 1600kW diesel generators, and Hydro
where conventional energy infrastructure is often Tasmanias Huxley Hill wind farm which has three 250kW
impractical. This study examines the suitability of two and two 850kW wind turbines [7]. Currie has a mild
different renewable energy systems for two hypothetical climate, ranging from 16.5C to 10.2C [8]. This mild
community settlements. The location and energy sources to climate reduces the populations dependence on heating
be analysed are a biofuel energy system in Kithimani, systems, so the energy requirements for heating these
Kenya and a tidal energy system located in the coastal town homes are relatively low.
Methodology small scales (industrial and household) without special
equipment or processing. Kenya is pioneering new
Geographic and Logistical Considerations Kithimani sustainable energy systems, with further biofuel potential
identified in sweet sorghum and Jatropha crops, and the
Kithimani is a region approximately 90km by road from chance to capitalise on secondary activities such as research
Kenyas capital and largest city, Nairobi, and it work, and biotechnology consulting [4].
incorporates a cluster of small villages. The Nairobi region
is situated close to the equator and at a relatively high Environmental and Social Considerations Kithimani
altitude of 1700m meaning it has an equable rather than
tropical climate [9]. This means average temperatures do Unlike some other sustainable energy sources such as solar
not vary significantly throughout the year, however, daily and wind power (where the energy is abundant and the
temperate ranges are fairly large, averaging around 10C in engineering focus is on how to efficiently capture/harvest
May and 15C in February [9]. that energy), biofuel sources can be rapidly depleted
without proper management. Therefore, biofuel could be
As a result, most households use fireplaces for evening considered potentially sustainable, with the condition that
warmth. Rather than temperature, the four distinct seasons supply and demand are both balanced effectively. This is
are classified mainly in terms of the level of rainfall as seen recognised by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, with
in Table 1. supply and demand strategies being developed for
sustaining production. Supply strategies include
Table 1: Seasonal Weather Characteristics in Kithimani development of fuel wood plantations through the Forest
Service, management of rangeland and woodlands and
Period Weather characteristics
enhancing on-farm tree planting, while demand-side
strategies promote more efficient cooking stoves and
Mid-December Mid Warm, sunny, dry
charcoal conversion kilns [3].
As is the case in other African nations, there are many
Mid-March May Main rainy season
Kenyan residents living in rural villages who are faced with
the problem of slow energy grid expansion outside urban
June - Mid-October Cool, cloudy, dry
areas. A lack of purchasing power means socioeconomic
Mid October Mid Secondary rainy season development will remain limited unless alternative energy
December sources and business models are explored. Given the
simplicity of extracting energy from crop-based fuels
Source: Nairobi City Climate [9] compared to conventional oil and gas (no need for
expensive refineries and other infrastructure), poorer
With fairly predictable temperatures, village residents in sections of the population have the chance to pool funds
Kithimani can accurately forecast how much biofuel is and achieve realistic economies of scale to help improve
required for a given period. The area is also serviced by a their access to energy. Biofuel is a good alternative for
well-maintained highway, allowing for steady fuel supplies assisting rural development, rather than leaving control of
to be delivered from city suppliers or local plantations, as energy production in the hands of a few large companies.
Some other environmental concerns are the carbon
Regulatory and Economic Considerations Kithimani footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions from the
burning of the wood, which would adversely affect the
The Kenyan government is strongly in favour of increasing global environment after some period of time. The planting
power generation from forestry sources and agro-industry of new trees can help offset some of these emissions, but
residues. Specifically, sugarcane bagasse (fibrous residue) the rate at which the trees grow is considerably slower than
has recently been identified as a source of an estimated the rate at which greenhouse gasses are being emitted.
200-500MW of energy production, with some sugar
producers already producing up to 25MW of surplus energy Regulatory and Economic Considerations Currie
for input to the grid [4]. Low feed-in tariffs (FiT) for off-
grid renewables of US$0.12kW/h have encouraged more While tidal power has great potential to work for Currie, it
investment, with new bagasse cogeneration projects could be cost-prohibitive to implement. The expense of the
recently approved [4]. implementation and maintenance of such new technology
could pose an issue. But, there have been other tidal power
In general economic terms, biofuel sources are favourable projects funded by the Australian Government located in
due to their adaptability they can be used on large and Tasmania, so funding would not be difficult to obtain.
Environmental Considerations Currie The heat loss ranges between 27MW in November and
43MW in January per 100 homes, as seen in Figure 2. This
Some of the environmental considerations to take into indicates that the system designed will need to
account are the marine life that resides in the water, and accommodate a maximum energy requirement of at least
how adding a tidal barrage could affect the ecosystem (i.e. 43MW during the month of January.
the fish and other animals that could get trapped in the
turbines). Although the turbines have been proven to cause Taking the efficiency of the generator into consideration
very minimal effects to the marine life, environmental (70%), the effective value of power required at the
activists still strongly oppose the use of such technology. maximum point is 62MW. Assuming the system is
powered on 24 hours per day, the maximum energy
Results required is 46GWh/month for the entire community.

System Requirements Kithimani The biofuel then needs to be combusted to heat steam and
generate electricity. Considering the chosen biofuel wood
To maintain a house at the required temperature of 23C in has an energy content of 4.1 kWh/kg when the moisture
Kithimani (where the heat loss occurs exclusively through content is below 20% [10]. Ensuring minimal water content
the windows), the heat loss was calculated for both the is important to increasing efficiency. This means that the
mean low and high temperatures, and then averaged to wood will need to be sufficiently dried by the sun prior to
account for the wide range of temperatures every day. use. Figure 3 shows the mass required of wood per 100
Figure 1 shows the monthly temperature averages. houses per month.

Figure 1: Average Temperature in Kithimani Figure 3: Mass Required of Wood per Month in Kithimani

The heat loss was calculated utilising the following Typically, trees can be grown at a density of 2.9 t/Hectare
relation: [11]. This would require approximately 3800 hectares per
month to accommodate the required energy per month.
(1) Considering that the location for this biofuel is rural, this is
a plausible amount of land, but the environmental
Where U is the overall heat transfer coefficient of the ramifications must be taken into consideration. This type of
window (taken to be 5.57W/m2 C for the Double Door energy would likely not be sustainable for many years.
Wood Frame with 3mm glass thickness) [12]. The surface
area of the windows was assumed to be 15 m2. If the same houses were to install double-paned windows,
the heat loss would be reduced from 43 to 25 MW in the
month of January, a 43% decrease. Assuming the cost of
power is $0.095/kWh, this upgrade would save the average
household nearly $300 per year in energy costs (from both
heating and cooling). The heat loss was calculated
according to Equation (1), where the overall heat transfer
coefficient U for this application was 3.2 W/m2 C [12].
The money saved per month is shown in Table 2.

Figure 2: Heat Loss per 100 Houses in Kithimani

Table 2: Savings with Double-Paned Windows (Kenya) Equation (1) was once again utilised to calculate the heat
loss (and subsequently, the power required to heat the
Month Money Saved
homes). The temperature inside was to be maintained at
23C, and the outside temperatures were found by taking
January $16.58
the monthly average temperature in Currie, Tasmania [8].
The graph for average monthly temperature is given below
February $13.96
in Figure 4.
March $17.34

April $21.40

May $26.51

June $29.18

July $31.79

August $31.41
Figure 4: Average Temperature in Currie, Tasmania
September $28.45
Using this information, it was then possible to calculate the
October $26.89 heat loss using Equation (1). The results are depicted in
Figure 5. A sample calculation can be found in Appendix
November $23.22 A.

December $20.10

TOTAL $286.82

System Requirements Currie

Tidal power requires there to be significant tidal ranges or

flow velocity. Located in the Bass Strait, Currie is in a
position where there is not enough of a variation in tidal
range to create much power. However, due to the flow Figure 5: Power Required Heating 100 Homes (Currie)
velocity caused by the West Wind Drift Ocean Current, the
water entering the strait has the potential to generate 3,000 As previously stated, the peak heat loss occurs in July and
MW of power from the current. Harvested correctly, the the corresponding power required is 78.6 MW, well within
power could be sufficiently converted into enough the capabilities of the tidal power system (3,000 MW).
electricity to heat the homes of Currie residents [14]. The
use of tidal power is a good option for Currie because If vinyl-framed double pane windows with an air space of
residents would get power from the ocean and not have to 6.4 mm were installed instead of the single paned windows,
rely on the unpredictable wind power. Unlike wind power, the heat loss would be reduced according to Figure 6.
tidal power is more reliable because the tides are
predictable, and relatively constant. [15].

Assuming there are 100 homes, and each will need to be

heated from the average monthly temperature to 23C, the
highest demand for power will be in July, with a necessity
for 78.6 MW of electricity to compensate for the heat loss
from the interior of the home to the outside environment.
Tidal power from the West Wind Drift Ocean Current
provides more than enough power to heat this community
throughout the year.
Figure 6: Heat Loss per Home (Single vs. Double-Paned)
The heat loss per home is significantly reduced respectively. Kenya already has strong momentum in
(approximately 3,000 kWh per 100 homes per year or setting up biomass energy systems, given its abundant
42.5%). Taking the cost of electricity to be $0.095/kWh, wood and agricultural product reserves, whereas the coastal
the total savings is about $287/year (per home) with the environment of Tasmania offers predictable and essentially
double-paned windows. The month-by-month breakdown is infinite tidal energy. As mentioned, Kenyan government
shown in Table 3 below. policies are effectively supporting local communities to
maximise the potential energy from rural landscapes and
Table 3: Savings with Double-Paned Windows (TAS) industry byproducts, whilst the Tasmanian government is
funding tidal power projects. Each chosen technique fits
Month Money Saved
logically within the respective economies, with Kenya
home to many small, off-grid farming communities needing
January $16.58 low-cost systems and Tasmania making use of Australias
advanced technology capabilities and access to capital
February $13.96 needed for complex projects like tidal power stations.
March $17.34 Conclusions
April $21.40 Both sources of energy that were chosen for this analysis
proved to be adequate for the regions that they would
May $26.51 potentially serve. For Kenya, biofuel is a feasible short-
term option because it uses readily available biomaterials
June $29.18 and converts them to energy. However, using wood for
biofuel can prove to be detrimental to the environment,
July $31.79 thus, alternate sources of energy should be sought. For
Australia, tidal power is a good option because it is a
August $31.41 predictable, and available source of power. An alternate
source of energy for Kithimani could be methane gas
September $28.45
digesters that would utilise human and animal waste to
process methane gas (which could then be converted to
October $26.89
electrical energy).
November $23.22
December $20.10
1. U.S. EIA International Energy Statistics. <http://>
Total $286.82
2. Nairobi weather averages.
Discussion 3. Githiomi, J.K., 2012. Strategies for sustainable wood
fuel production in Kenya. International Journal of
The development of off-grid renewable energy sources is Applied Science and Technology, Vol. 2. No. 10.
likely to accelerate in the medium to long term in rural 4. Energy Regulatory Commision (Kenya).
areas all around the world. Continually declining fossil fuel <>
reserves drive up the cost of conventional energy sources, 5. Kenya Renewable Energy Association.
so communities and governments will turn to renewable <>
sources out of necessity. Sufficient energy for rural villages 6. Kings Island Information.
can be harvested from a wide range of sources using <>
different technologies, however capturing renewable 7. Energy In Tasmania Performance Report. 2012-13
energy in the most economical way means a comprehensive <
analysis, centered usually on the local environment, is er.nsf/LookupFiles/Energy_in_Tasmania_Performance
needed before the most efficient technique can be chosen. _Report_2012-
Analysis of the two locations in this study revealed that rformance_Report_2012-13_FINAL_140212.pdf>
both areas have sufficient potential source energy for the 8. Climate Statistics for Currie, Australia.
given application, with the most abundant energy sources <
being biomass and tidal power in Kithimani and Currie, 98001.shtml>
9. Nairobi City Climate. Calculations
<> Heat loss/house
10., (2014). Typical calorific ,
values of fuels. [online] Available at: For single glazed window in July:
pageid=75,20041&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL Q loss, max = 5.57*15*(23-20.5) = 208.875 W/house
[Accessed 3 Oct. 2014]. = 20.89 kW/100 houses
11., (2014). Potential outputs
of biofuels per hectare, per annum. [online] Available For double glazed window with 6.4mm gap
at: Q loss, max = 3.2*15*(23-20.5) = 120W/house
pageid=75,163231&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL =12 kW/100 houses
[Accessed 3 Oct. 2014].
12. engel, Y. and Ghajar, A. (2011). Heat and mass Effective Q required (after converted to electricity)
transfer. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Q loss, max, single, effective = Q loss, max / Efficiency generator
13., (2014). Electricity Generation using =45.95/0.5
Steam Turbines. [online] Available at: =91.9 kW/100 houses
[Accessed 3 Oct. 2014].
14. Geoscience Australia. Ocean Energy. Energy required in July:
< Erequired = Q loss, max, single, effective *hours*days
topics/energy/resources/other-renewable-energy- = 91.9*24*30
resources/ocean-energy> = 66168 kWh
15. Energy Central. The Age of Undersea Windmills = 6.6 MWh
Begins. Valentine, Henry. (16 March, 2006).
<> Wood required in July:
M wood, max, single pane =Q loss, window/ (E content*Efficiency generator)
= 661268/4.1
Appendix A Sample Calculations = 16139 kg/month/100 houses
= 16.14 tonne/month/100 houses
No heat loss through walls due to insulation. Table 3 shows the cost for operating over a year for double
Windows are 3 mm thick and cover an area of 15 and single-paned windows, based on energy costs of
m2 $0.095/kWh.
U-factor of single and double-glazing with a
6.4mm gap are 5.57 and 3.2 respectively Windows
are double door type wood framed [9].
-To is the average monthly temperature.
-Heat transfer is one-dimensional.
Steady operating conditions.
Energy from biofuel approx. 4.1 kWh/kg.
Throughout month constant heat loss
Wood combustion
Wood combusted is at specified moisture content.
Efficiency of generator is 70% [10]