Kakamega — A local company, Powerspot Pelletizers, has set up a plant that produces pellets from sugarcane bagasse in Kakamega.
The pellets which are smokeless are then used as fuel in jikos, burners, and can act as an alternative to charcoal and firewood, thereby preserving trees from being felled for charcoal burning.
The Company currently produces 100 tonnes of pellets from about 200 tonnes of sugarcane bagasse.
The Chief Executive Officer of the company Alfonso Acebal says plans are underway to set up a similar plant with a higher capacity to produce more than 2000 tonnes of pellets from about 4500 to 5000 tonnes of sugar bagasse.
He says the raw materials, which is sugarcane bagasse, are in plenty and once the sister plant is set up, it will offer a big relief to sugar companies which dispose of excess sugarcane bagasse.
He says the company has also produced Jikos, which were initially powered by pellets produced from sawdust to be powered by the pellets which now come from Sugarcane Bagasse.
Acebal established the company in 2017, but after an intensive research, tests and trials that took a lot of time.
He says he visited Kakamega to sell Jikos which use pellets obtained from sawdust as most companies in the United States and European Markets produce pellets from sawdust.
During his visit, he was also doing some research on how to adjust a jiko to produce energy that apart from its primary usage of cooking, the Jiko can at the same time power lamps, charge phones and even power other electronic devices with an aim of providing a source of energy to rural areas of Kenya.
During the research, they set up the plant to use sawdust to produce pellets in Kenya instead of importing from the US. The plant was set up but after operating for some time, it became challenging to obtain sawdust due to deforestation and government firm stand on conservation.
It was then that Acebal led his team to research on alternative raw materials that can produce pellets as already some jikos had been sold to customers. That is when they decided to utilize sugarcane bagasse. He says they adjusted the machinery which initially converted sawdust to pellets to now convert bagasse to pellets.
Once obtained from the sugar factories, bagasse has about 50 per cent moisture, it is thus fed into a rotary drum dryer to dry it to about 8 per cent moisture content.
The resulting product is then crushed and fed through the pelletizer section where mills convert and mix with a binder into pellets.
They are then cooled down and packaged in bags of 5 kg, 30kg 50kg and 500 kg bags especially for industries.
The company sells 1kilogram of pellets for between Sh. 21 and Sh. 25.
It also supplies an energy saving Jiko which uses thermoelectric technology powered by pellets to produce energy at a cost of Sh. 5000. A Jiko which does not use thermoelectric technology is sold at Sh. 1500.
Local community members from Kabras have already embraced the Jikos and are now using pellets as a source of fuel for cooking and using the thermoelectric jiko to power their electric appliances like phones and to light bulbs.
“We have energy saving Jikos which use thermoelectric technology which allows the jiko to generate energy while cooking. We can say that it is free energy because by using this jiko and by the pellets then you are able to light up to 10 bulbs, you can charge phones, you can charge and power on radios,” he noted.
He says they are finalizing research to come up with institutional Jikos which use pellets as fuel for supply to schools to minimize use of firewood.
He says once fully done, then schools, other institutions and industries that have boilers and burners will cut costs of up to 60 per cent, and also save the environment from tree felling.