Biomass Energy in Zimbabwe

The project's goal is to promote sustainable biomass energy management for positive economic development in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Although its focus is on Eastern Zimbabwe, if successful it promises to be a model for the integration of large-scale and community/household-scale sustainable biomass energy and ecological management in a number of developing nations. The project will consist of testing, evaluating, and implementing methods for sustainable power generation using the wood waste produced by large, medium and small sawmills operating in the Manicaland region, near the border of Mozambique. Currently, over 70,000 tons of this biomass waste is produced annually. The project's principal objectives will be to examine the technical and economic feasibility of the available alternative biomass energy generation technologies, their effect on the forest-management practices, and the social implications for this region.

ABSTRACT
Biomass Energy for Sustainable Economic, Social, and Environmental Development in Eastern Zimbabwe is an applied research project based in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) of the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California, Berkeley in collaboration with the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) - Southern Africa. The project's goal is to promote sustainable biomass energy management for positive economic development in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Although its focus is on Eastern Zimbabwe, if successful it promises to be a model for the integration of large-scale and community/household-scale sustainable biomass energy and ecological management in a number of developing nations. The project will consist of testing, evaluating, and implementing methods for sustainable power generation using the wood waste produced by large, medium and small sawmills operating in the Manicaland region, near the border of Mozambique. Currently, over 70,000 tons of this biomass waste is produced annually. The project's principal objectives will be to examine the technical and economic feasibility of the available alternative biomass energy generation technologies, their effect on the forest-management practices, and the social implications for this region. We will work closely with the local sawmills, community groups, municipalities, NGOs, governement agencies, and the national utility to implement and evaluate the potential of various bioenergy technologies while building the local capacity to implement, maintain and manage biomass conversion systems. The project is estimated to run 24 months and has received its basic funding from the Shell Foundation - Sustainable Energy Programme.
Project Background and Goals: Energy Needs and the Waste Resource Opportunity
The purpose of this project is to evaluate the implementation of several methods of sustainable power generation using wood waste produced by sawmills operating in the Manicaland region of Zimbabwe, close to the border of Mozambique. Currently, over 70,000 tons of this biomass waste is produced annually with long-term projections estimate that the waste produced will more than double by 2015. At the largest mills the amount of biomass waste generated on-site could alone yield as much as 4 MW of usable power. While at the largest mills a small fraction (~10%) of the wood waste generated is currently consumed in process steam boilers for lumber drying kilns, the vast majority is burned in the open air or dumped. Thus, this project has the strong potential to provide sustainable power and address a major environmental problem and inefficiency in plantation/sawmill production.
Chimanimani, Zimbabwe
Mutare, Zimbabwe
The timber industry in Zimbabwe is almost entirely based on plantation timber, whose production is dominated by three large organizations producing about 87% of the national output. Plantation forests occupy about 0.02% of the total land area of Zimbabwe, comprising 81,000 ha of pine, 24,000 ha of eucalyptus and 13,000 ha of wattle, the majority of which are in the Eastern Highlands. The timber industry is the largest industry in the Manicaland province and employs more than 14,000 people directly. Sawmilling is the largest sector of the industry and is currently experiencing a boom, while the pulp, paper and board industries have generally not been able to keep pace with the growth in sawmill activities. Consequently, the demand for chips is less than the amount of chips and other wastes produced. This has given rise to open-air incineration and dumping in municipal landfills, contributing to local air pollution and global carbon emissions. When permission for dumping in municipal landfills is not granted, communal lands have been illegally used. While some sawmills have been designed to use a portion of the waste in their boilers to produce steam for drying kilns waste disposal remains one of the biggest challenges facing the industry and local municipalities.