Durban embarks on ambitious solar project

2014-08-21 00:00

DURBAN has embarked on an ambitious plan to use the Sun’s energy to power the equivalent of an entire neighbourhood.

The multi-million rand solar panel project will see some of Durban’s buildings, including the Moses Ma­bhida Stadium arch, generating solar power. The power generated will be in line with a national trend by metropolitans to explore alternative methods of energy generation.

The majority of the panels — generating about 500 kWp, which is enough to power up 250 energy efficient houses — will be spread across roof tops maximising on the city’s abundant sunshine.

It is expected the solar photovoltaic (PV) project will cost about R10 million, with the project being tendered out early next year.

Solar expert Frank Spencer, who recommended to the city which buildings were ideal for the PV project, said the power generated was “nominal” if looked at in isolation.

“If we looked at how many properties are generating their own power and collectively add this up, it would be significant. This is the case in Europe and the USA,” said Spencer.

He said if all the north-facing roofs in South Africa had solar power, there would be an abundance of power in the country, maximising on the country’s sunshine.

“It would be more feasible to have hundreds of thousands of small solar grids based at individual properties than one big station, such as Medupi. The cost would be less, they would be maintained privately and the risk much lower.”

Currently, residential households cannot financially benefit from offsetting onto the grid.

Earlier this year, the city launched its residential off-set programme. This allows households with solar or wind energy to feed back onto the grid. The units put onto the grid are offset against the units that have been used by the resident.

City spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said the primary aims of the PV project will provide “opportunities for learning about photovoltaic installations for municipal officials and the public” while reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

“The project was initiated through another programme called the ‘Durban Solar City Framework’ [DSCF] in 2013. The aim of the DSCF is to create an enabling environment for Solar PV installations in the city and one of these components is for the city to lead by example with Solar PV,” said Mthethwa. She said a detailed technical assessment still needs to be conducted.

Green energy body Sessa’s photovoltaic chairperson Carryn Bateman said PV solar is common in the United States and Europe.

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