Big Midlands solar array excites pupils

2014-02-10 00:00

A SCHOOL outing with a difference was aimed at making geography come alive for pupils from St Nicholas school in Pietermaritzburg.

The trip was organised by teacher Daniel Bailey who wanted pupils to understand the concept of solar energy was not just a subject in a school textbook.

He organised for them to visit one of the biggest solar arrays in the Midlands area. It is a collection of 14 solar panels combined to save sun energy. They are joined together and they all rotate as a single panel so they can track the sun, maximising their potential to capture the sun’s energy.

The solar array was built by the owners of a farm on the Curry’s Post road who were tired of the rising cost of electricity and frequent black-outs.

Bailey, who has a passion for sustainable energy, heard about the massive solar array and organised a school outing for his class. Bailey said: “On top of their solar array, they have a wind turbine that generates electricity at night. The array generates enough electricity to supply all their domestic needs and they never need to use any electricity from Eskom.”

The energy generated from the solar panels is stored in a massive battery bank. Bailey says the purpose of the outing was to show the pupils that solar energy and other means of sustainable living will be the way of the future.

As a teenager, Bailey often visited his uncle in Lesotho — he was a solar technician who installed solar panels in clinics and schools in rural Lesotho. Bailey believes that South Africa has to embrace alternative technology.

“These days, you get cellphone chargers with solar batteries and even backpacks with solar panels on them. Some of our street lights are powered by solar panels.”

For the pupils, the size of the solar array was impressive, as was the fact that it could be managed by two ordinary people who were not technically minded. But they were really impressed when they saw the farm’s bakkie also had solar panels on the roof that powered the farm’s power tools for cutting down trees or supplied power for the brush cutters.

Bailey said: “The pupils were all energised by the outing and it definitely meant more than a picture in a book.”

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