Renewable Energy: The underutilized energy source

Energy is a very vital resource to the development of the modern life. From household appliances, office electronic devices, factories and industries machines, transportation and personal gadgets all are driven by energy.

In other words, energy holds a much wider control over the operating capacity of our modern creation.

Perhaps the most grilling phenomenon is the way our environment is degraded and polluted by energy generation and consumption, triggering the all-out demand for sustainable methods to harness energy and moving forward to tap renewable energy, hence for Africa might be the suitable game to play and capitalize due to the present myriad of natural forms of energy.

Renewable energy comes from the natural forms of energy that comes from nature and replenish over human being time scales, such as wind, sunlight, rain, waves, tides and geothermal.

Renewable energy is mostly utilized in electrification, rural (off grid) energy services, transportation air and water heating and cooling. This nature friendly energy generation method dates back in the 19th century prior to the development of coal, during this era most of the energy generated was renewable ranging from, human labor, animal power, and windmills in milling grains, water power to traditional biomass.

Renewable energy contributes to 19.3 percent of the global energy consumption and 24 percent to the generation of electricity in 2015/2016 respectively and 8.9 percent coming from traditional biomass.

Modern biomass, geothermal and solar heat constituted 4.2 percent, hydro-electricity 3.9 percent and 2.2 percent is electricity generated from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass all together.

Records indicates that at the national level at least 30 nations across the globe already have renewable energy which contributes to more than 20 percent of energy supply, this being in countries such as Iceland and Norway generate all their electricity using renewable forms of energy. Africa on the other can take control of more than hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energies.

Hydropower is one of leading energy in developing countries, where hydroelectric dams and reservoirs cater for growing energy demand, thus in 2015 hydropower generated 16 percent of the world’s electricity and 70 percent of the all renewable electricity.

Tanzania particularly has stressed enough on this by paying much attention on hydropower potential through river Ruvuma and capitalizing on the 4 GW potential, with 1.9Twh generation capacity. Hence other renewable sources are plenty but

not utilized enough such as solar energy.

Solar energy can be referred as the radiant energy and heat from the sun, this form of energy is harnessed through a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating photovoltaics, and concentrated solar power.  This renewable energy technology can be broken into two categories, the first one is passive solar which orients a building to the sun, selecting only the materials with thermal mass or light dispersing properties then designing space that naturally circulate air.

On the other hand active solar technologies encompass solar thermal energy using solar collection for heating and solar power converting sunlight into electricity. Tanzania has promising levels of solar energy ranging between 2,800 and 3,500 hours of sunshine per year primarily in central regions.

However 6MW of solar grid have been installed country wide , operated in villages , hospitals , health centers and police stations, regions like Dodoma, Sumbawanga, Tabora, Shinyanga and Singida get much solar radiation, capitalizing solar energy generation is feasible.

Geothermal energy is yet another untapped energy where is it from thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature, originating from the naturally generated radioactive decayed minerals.

The heat used for energy is deep within the earth 6400 Km down at the core, with over 5,000 C. Hence hot springs are one the forms of geothermal energy dating back in ancient times, currently known for electricity generation. However the outer crust of Earth can be a thermal battery facilitating renewable thermal energy for heating and cooling buildings, refrigeration and powering industries.

Tanzania has regions with geothermal energy, with the right technology we can shift the dependence on the hydropower electricity generation to geothermal.

Wind power is another potential energy existing in Tanzania that uses only airflows to run wind turbines. Modern utility-scale wind turbines range around 600kW to 5MW of rated power. In windy regions such as Singida and Dodoma wind power infrastructure can produce enough energy to cater for these regions energy demands, as the more wind speed increases, power output increases up to the maximum output for particular turbine.

Offshore and high altitudes areas of Tanzania tend to have constant and stronger winds and are preferred locations for establishing wind farms. Available records show that wind-generated electricity catered for 4 percent of the globe’s electricity demand in 2015, nearly 63GW new wind power capacity installed worldwide.

Bioenergy is yet another form of energy that is generated from living or recently organisms. Bio energy can either be used directly through combustion to produce heat or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel.

Converting biomass to biofuel can be successful by three methods classified into: Thermal, Chemical and Biochemical methods, where wood has remained the largest biomass source till to date, this engulfs dead trees, branches and tree stumps. However biofuel include a wide range of fuels which are derived from biomass covering solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Liquid biofuels goes accounts for bio alcohols such as bioethanol and oils like biodiesel. Gaseous biofuels include biogas, landfill gas and synthetic gas.

The energy sector has been facing a myriad of challenges especially in the recent decade, which limit small scale industries and factories that rely on electricity. By encompassing renewable energy potentials present in our country, we can maximize the energy generated and suffice the growing need of energy for domestic and industrial consumption.

As we are working our way towards industrializing Tanzania, reliable energy supply is a critical factor.

Padili Mikomangwa

Geographer and Environmentalist writes from Tanzania.

He can be reached via Cell: +255763635597.




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