He has been known for decades as a politician and presidential aspirant. Now suddenly T.Q. Harris has emerged as an industrialist.
Our Correspondent Leroy Sonpon reported that Mr. Harris who, like many other presidential aspirants, performed dismally in the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections, told journalists at his "research center" on Duport Road last week that he had "modified" a biomass electric power machine to cheaply produce electricity in the country. The machine would use wood and other solid waste materials for the production of electricity.
Mr. Harris, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the HV WoodGas Technology, unveiled the Prototype Gasifier Machine at their research center.
The aim, said Harris, is to provide electricity especially to rural Liberia, under the motto, "Darkness Must Go."
The biomass electric power machine, called Prototype Gasifier, was developed in the country through the assistance of Igbo Vincent, according Mr. Harris.
He insists that biomass power is better than hydro or solar electricity. The machine would use bio mass, crude palm oil and wood chips to produce electricity.
Harris describes the restoration of electricity in some of parts of the country through the Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant as "periodic and very expensive as compared to the biomass electricity, which is "nonstop and cheaper."
Engineer Harris said the Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant, costing US$230 million and still under re-construction, would only provide efficient electricity during the rainy season, while during the dry season, there will be irregular current because the water level would have dropped. The biomass electric machine, on the other hand, is better, he said, because it uses locally produced and replenishable materials.
The US Patent holder for the invention of a one-hand analogue timepiece said the biomass electric power, when the Government invests in it, can "uninterruptedly provide cheaper current."
We commend Mr. Harris for his "modification," even as we suggest that there are many questions that need clarification.
The first is an assessment of the "research center." Heaven knows it is about time we start doing serious research and innovating, yea inventing something in Liberia. But what kind of center is it? We are sorry that Harris did not first take the journalists on a tour of the research center and show them how he and his partners came to "modify" the machine. The reason is, we know T.Q. Harris to be more a politician, than a mathematician, scientist or industrialist.
The second question is, what kind of staff mans Harris' research center? Are they Natural Science or technology graduates from the University of Liberia, Cuttington or any other local universities, or from abroad, for example California where TQ has been based for many years? We know that California is a citadel for technology inventions. There are Stanford, Berkeley and other major universities and Silicon Valley, the center for computer technology.
Thirdly, what kind of funding did Mr. Harris get and from where, to finance his technological innovation?
Fourth, where does he expect to get the other inputs to mass produce his prototype machine?
And finally, what will be his source of raw materials–palm oil, woodchips, biomass, etc. to produce electricity?
We remember that the now defunct company Buchanan Renewables (BR) cut hundreds of thousands of rubber and other trees all over the country to produce woodchips for the power plant that they promised to build in Kakata but never built. Next thing we knew, the company started shipping the woodchips abroad to feed power plants in Europe! The Daily Observer helped expose the scandal and some of the European firms quickly backed out and stopped using BR's wood chips.
We do not know what has happened to the massive stockpiles of woodchips BR mounted at the Port of Buchanan. Does Mr. Harris know of this? Does he intend to buy and use some of these?
We are sure that he and his partners will have to answer these and many more questions about his machine and subsequent plans before he is able to raise the money he needs to execute his machine multiplication plans.
The Daily Observer would be willing to revisit him yet again for answers to these and other questions in the interest of encouraging the further development of this worthy enterprise.