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Global Recycling Day: SANDF takes green leap with its biogas project

In collaboration with the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), the military was taking its “green soldiering” environmental concept to the next level by installing biogas plants that would enable two military bases to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels to cook meals for about 220 people a day. Picture: Supplied

In collaboration with the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), the military was taking its “green soldiering” environmental concept to the next level by installing biogas plants that would enable two military bases to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels to cook meals for about 220 people a day. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 18, 2022

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Cape Town - The South African National Defence Force (SANDF), in collaboration with the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), is marking Global Recycling Day today by taking its “green soldiering” environmental concept a step further and installing biogas plants at two military bases.

This will enable them to use gas to cook meals for about 220 people daily at their bases in Limpopo, instead of using fossil fuels, as was previously the case.

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The biogas project was one of several waste recycling and energy-saving programmes undertaken by the SANDF in partnership with Sanedi.

Sanedi renewable energy manager Karen Surridge said: “By finding a more responsible way of disposing of their kitchen biological waste, the SANDF has taken the first step towards implementing renewable energy while also removing a waste challenge – with the added benefit that the bio-digesters produce a liquid fertiliser that is very rich and can be used in fertilising gardens for food or ornamental production.”

The military, in partnership with Sanedi, implemented this technology as a pilot project to prove the concept could help them with waste removal and energy generation.

Surridge said biogas was a mixture of gases that primarily consisted of methane and carbon-dioxide, and was produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste and food waste.

It was considered a renewable energy source because the methane in it could be used for primary energy needs such as cooking, heating and lighting, and electricity production.

One of the bases where the biogas plant was installed, Air Force Base (AFB) Makhado, prepared daily meals for about 200 people and had, until now, used coal-fired electricity in its kitchen.

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However, biogas now replaced much of the electricity used and would save the base an estimated R250 000 in electricity costs over the 20-year lifetime of the biogas plant.

“We hope that, based on the success expected over the following two years of intensive monitoring, that the SANDF will roll this out to more military bases around South Africa,” Surridge said.

SANDF Defence Works Formation general commanding officer Joseph Ledwaba is passionate about this project, and said the drive towards greening defence force bases was unrivalled.

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“The mandate of the Defence Works Formation is, among other things, to maintain military bases across the country in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner,” he said.

In deciding to pursue this project, Ledwaba considered the savings in energy and cost by implementing alternative energy technologies, as well as energy security and environmental impact.

“The biogas project is also very much in line with the SANDF’s green soldiering concept under which it has introduced strong environmental protection measures in its operations,” Surridge said.

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