Community-Level Resource Development and Management, Part 2: A Transferable Approach to Feasibility Analysis for Biogas as an Alternative Cooking Fuel
Energy access for all is the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) put forth by the United Nations in 2015. This initiative has been taken on by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national governments and communities alike. Traditional approaches to cooking often rely on three-stone fires (or other open wood fires). The smoke from these open cooking fires is known to cause significant negative health impacts, thus access to cleaner energy sources is especially important for to improve cooking conditions. One alternative cooking fuel is biogas, which has the advantages of smoke reduction, and decreased reliance on and impact of firewood collection. In this article, we develop a method of analyzing the feasibility of biogas projects for rural communities. The method enables both evaluation of an ideal digester design for specific environments and determination of the scale, cost, and yields of a biogas plant. For example, in a cooking application 1-m3 of biogas can be compared to 1.3 kg of firewood or approximately 10 minutes not spent collecting firewood. Such evaluation is critical to help communities and organizations determine whether or not this type of project is ideal for their environments. All too often, development project concepts are funded prematurely, before the realization that the implemented technology does not function properly or is unsustainable for specific applications. The feasibility analysis we describe is a contribution to the literature because it provides a condensed, simplified resource that enables development practitioners and communities to readily evaluate whether or not a biogas energy solution is appropriate and sustainable for their setting prior to investing valuable resources and time into implementation.
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