Vodacom goes green

2013-03-06 11:30
Solar panels cover the roof of the Vodacom building in Cape Town. (Vodacom)

Solar panels cover the roof of the Vodacom building in Cape Town. (Vodacom)

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Vodacom solar building

2013-03-06 10:47

Vodacom's Maya Makanjee explains the company's foray into solar power in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - Vodacom has celebrated the launch of its "green" building in Cape Town that has seen the operator being able to save on its electricity consumption.

The company showed the building to the media on Tuesday and highlighted the solar panels that covered the entire roof.

Vodacom, though, insisted that the installation was no marketing exercise to capture growing public empathy with companies who can demonstrate their "green" credentials.

"It's not a marketing exercise. Typically this installation here can feed the whole of the building and we even have excess energy we can put back into the grid," Chris de Jongh, manager of Repairs and Maintenance for Facilities South at Vodacom told News24.

The solar panels provided by SolarWorld Africa have the capacity to power the entire building during a peak three hour window during the day, but on the whole, can supply 75% of the energy requirements.

Challenges

But challenges remain: The excess energy cannot be fed back into the grid, but there are significant savings for the operator.

"Unfortunately we can't do it [feed energy back] at this stage; I don't think the council is ready for that, but for myself, I thought this was the most responsible thing to do.

"This was the most responsible thing to do from a corporate side and hopefully inspire other corporates to do the same," said De Jongh.

The project which began three years ago also had challenges in terms of keeping workers safe and the weight on the roof presented problems.

"The weight bearing on the roof: That was the one issue we had to address and on the flat sections we had waterproofing - I didn't want to fix something on top of that waterproofing," De Jongh explained.

Vodacom spent around R10m to kit out its building with solar panels, and De Jongh justified the amount, saying that the company could recoup the capital outlay in a relatively short period.

"A couple of years ago, you were looking at a return of investment of about 17 years for a simple payback model; it has come down to where you can reach payback anywhere between eight and 12 years, but with this particular project here, and also because we've entered into an agreement with Eskom, our payback is around 5.5 years."

The company is examining the possibility of fitting more of its buildings with solar power, mirroring the programming of reducing the energy consumption of its base stations with renewable energy solutions.


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