Zuma launches flagship solar power plant

2011-12-04 20:25

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Sunday launched a flagship solar power plant in Hazelmere, KwaZulu-Natal.

The launch comes amidst South Africa's hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP17, in Durban.

Zuma said the solar plant was expected to improve the lives of both the people of Hazelmere and of those from its surroundings areas.

"For the first time, the neighbouring communities will have access to clean electricity generated from their backyards, and with possibilities of job opportunities," he said.

Zuma said the partnership between Soitec and Ethekwini Municipality, which resulted in the solar plant, was also designed to include skills development in which the local community will benefit, especially the youth.

"We are happy that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has made a strategic decision to begin positioning itself for renewable energy production in South Africa," he said.

Green economy

Addressing delegates at COP17, which also serves as the Seventh Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, Zuma said some of them were representing various companies and countries that pioneered solar technology in its various forms.

He said they were also in South Africa to explore the possibility of scaling up the renewable energy option in the local energy mix.

"Indeed your efforts will assist us in addressing the green economy value chain to create employment and to alleviate poverty.

"This is the path we are taking as a country, and we want you to bring the technologies and financial resources to our shores for investment in the proposed energy initiatives," Zuma said.

He pointed out that Africa had abundant renewable energy sources and that these needed to be harnessed in building an inclusive and sustainable green economy.

"The world has gathered in Durban because of the realisation that we have to respond urgently and adequately to climate change."

Zuma said changing weather patterns were causing extreme drought, wild fires, extreme floods and other unusual occurrences.

Uninhabitable wastelands

"We have seen drought in Somalia which has caused famine and devastation. Other parts of the world face severe hurricanes and tornadoes. Even here in KZN we know that the weather is no longer what it used to be, due to global warming," he said.

Zuma warned that if nothing was done, climate change will leave South Africa with uninhabitable wastelands and socio-economic disasters.

"The people of Hazelmere will remember COP17 as the summit that made them a part of ensuring that future generations inherit a world that is environmentally sustainable and climate resilient.

"This is South Africa’s first large-scale offering within the clean energy arena. But it is not the last," Zuma said.

"We are looking at other possible avenues to improve our emissions profile while creating employment opportunities for our people," he said.

Zuma further congratulated all partners in the solar plant project, adding that "we must move forward together towards an environmentally safer future and economic prosperity".

  • Lánsamir - 2011-12-04 20:50

    Good start!

  • Juan - 2011-12-04 21:06

    Awesome :) ,funny how people never comment on these stories.

  • opinionater - 2011-12-04 21:09

    Wow. I am impressed :) WHERE ARE THE TROLLS??? xD

      Soetdoring - 2011-12-04 22:10

      OK, seems Juan and opinionater would like some comments, so here goes. Solar photovoltaic cells (note: not solar heating) is NOT so green and therefore not so cool as many want us to believe. They do have a place in the energy spectrum, but they are only justifiable in areas which has no access to the national grid - typical examples would be a farm where there is a lack of consistent wind to drive a windpump or traffic lights in remote locations. So why is a solar cell not green? Simply because more carbon is required during the manufacturing process than the amount of carbon that cell will save during its entire lifespan. The science behind this is briefly: ordinary solar cell are made from silicon, but silicon (Si) is rare in nature. Silica (SiO2,silicondioxide, a type of sand) is however very abundant, but to convert SiO2 into Si requires extremely high temperature. This huge amount of energy commonly comes only from coal or an oxy-acetylene flame and wella, there you have your large carbon footprint for every solar cell.

      Fatty - 2011-12-05 08:37

      @Soetdoring - you are not entirely correct, it depends on the photovoltaic cell's productive lifetime. typically it would take about four years for a cell to offset the carbon it took to manufacture. So if a cell lasts for 30 years, thats a shyte load of carbon saved. (ref-

      Soetdoring - 2011-12-05 10:40

      @ Fatty - @Fatty - I read your reference and as usual, they paint an expected rosy picture. Why? 1. All solar cells are protected from the atmosphere (oxygen) with a transparent resinous barrier. It is well known that all resinous material when exposed to the direct sun becomes brittle in a short time and once that barrier became brittle it is not too difficult for nature (hail, normal daily expansion and contraction) to open up hairline cracks through which oxygen can (and will) easily diffuse through and get in contact with the underlying silicon. Once that occurs, the Si reacts quickly with the oxygen to form silica. In a rather short time you will have the silicon coated with a layer silica which will render the cell useless because the silica will block all photons from reaching the underlying silicon. 2. Most solar panel manufacturers will quote a certain amount of electricity the panel can deliver, but end-users hardly ever achieve those published values. Why is that? More than 99.5% of all panel are mounted on a framework which is then put on top of a roof. Such configurations will only provide optimal performance for a few hours - say 11am to 2pm when the sun is high in the sky. A solar panel will deliver maximum energy only when it is mounted on a device that tracks the sun not only on a daily base, but also makes correction for a shifting sun during winter and summer. I can only guess that such a device will be horrendously expensive.... out of space

      Arthur - 2011-12-05 12:03

      Soetdoring writes: This huge amount of energy commonly comes only from coal or an oxy-acetylene flame and wella, This maybe correct for wafer production in China butr not in Norway. REC Glomfjord uses clean electric power.

      Soetdoring - 2011-12-05 12:29

      @Athur - you are cherry picking now. Norway is only one of a very few countries with more or less consistent wind to power wind farms. Despite this abundant supply of wind, they still keep their good old faithful coal power stations on standby. However if your statement that Glomfjord gets it 'clean' power from nuclear, then that power is not clean at all. Nuclear has a massive radioactive waste disposal problem which is still unsolved as we speak.

      Fatty - 2011-12-05 15:11

      @ Soetdoring - Fair points you bring up. but can you reference these said facts? Otherwise, its just side-stepping the point. It's a given that a PV cell will eventually expire and that it's dependent on the amount of sun it can capture. But for as long as the product CAN generate exceedingly more energy than it took to produce, it is a 'greener' option. Especially if the location has dependable Sun exposure and if using Wind is less viable, the latter being more often than not, especially for residential situations.

      Soetdoring - 2011-12-06 03:32

      @Fatty - Not sure which points you are referring to but the construction of solar cells is described in How stuff works. The failure of a solar cell due to barrier collapse is Chemistry 101 and this includes the oxidation of silicon by oxygen. A few years ago I bought a few garden lights powered by solar cells because I thought it will look cool at night. They started to fail after about 2 years and the lot were finished within 3 years. Using a magnifying glass I could indeed see moisture on top of the silicon, confirming that the barrier was breached. At the time I paid R500 for each light and there is just no way an ordinary light bulb would have used that much electricity in the same time.

      Fatty - 2011-12-06 07:56

      @ Soetdoring - Sometimes I guess you dont get what you pay for hey? Especially from gardening retailers in this country. Let me guess, your garden lights were a little known brand and made in China? This now has me worried my solar powered Waving Cat (bought for R200) may not last another year on my window sill?? :( At the end of the day though, it's buyer beware, and it's evident there are PV cell products out there that are worth the investment.

  • cxa - 2011-12-04 21:21

    Awesome...more of the same.

  • Smanga Zwane - 2011-12-04 21:34

    People don't comment on these stories because they don't like good stories... They want mayhem, death, crime and hysteria so that they can swear, insult and dislike using their fake Facebook IDs... Sickening really.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-05 14:20

    Right direction wrong bosses. People need to stop relying on government for basic services. People through their own lack of commitment and self sufficiency are making themselves slaves to the system. get off your lazy rear end and become self sufficient, until you do you will always be little more than a dictators puppet.

  • Arthur - 2011-12-05 15:44

    Typical political stunt. Show the world how clever we are in SA! An action along with many more from politicians around the world who knows nothing about global warming at what causes it. Thanks to misinformation from IPCC and IEA!

  • Fanie - 2011-12-05 17:11

    ok ......but if this is the path being taken why does government not say NO to fracking?

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