Western Cape gears up to pilot solar PV technician skills programme

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Solar PV installation at Hout Bay Gallery.
Solar PV installation at Hout Bay Gallery.
  • A new skills development pilot project for solar PV technicians has been launched in the Western Cape.
  • The pilot project will be rolled out at Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges across the country.
  • A solar PV installation company has detected a shortage of skills and the need for training as among the key challenges the emerging industry faces.
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A pilot skills development programme specifically for solar PV technicians was launched in the Western Cape on Friday.

The pilot project will be rolled out across several Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in the country. Among these include the West Coast College and False Bay College in the Western Cape. Five other TVET colleges in the Free State, Eastern Cape, North West and Gauteng will also pilot the qualification. 

The qualification was developed along with the TVET colleges and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services SETA and the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre.

According to an information sheet on the programme, the pilot will test the digital teaching and learning platform. It also includes practical skills training at an approved TVET.

READ | SA wants to ramp up renewables - but what happens to the waste when we switch them off?

"It's critical to get the province’s skills mix right so as to get the investment mix right, and to get the entrepreneurial skills right," Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said.

The Western Cape is encouraging participation in the programme, as it also supports its agenda to develop a green economy and end power cuts.

"Building energy resilience is a key priority, not only because we need to mitigate the effects of load shedding and the resulting economic damage, but because of the immense potential this sector has to attract investment, grow our regional economy and create jobs," said MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities Mireille Wenger.

Wenger added that it is important to have the right skills pipelines for the renewable energy sector to "thrive" in the province.

Skills shortage

Vincent Maposa, CEO of Wetility – a solar PV solutions business which offers financing, installation and operations and maintenance services – identified s skills shortage as an obstacle for the development of the industry.

"The market is awash with electricians," said Maposa. However, they might not be equipped to install hybrid solar PV and storage systems. Wetility partnered with the Gauteng Innovation Hub to train qualified electricians and technicians to work with solar PV systems. Wetility also partnered with the South African Photovoltaic Industry association to make sure their installers are certified to work with the technologies as there are health and safety regulations that need to be adhered to, he added.

The South African government is pushing to expand the rollout of renewable energy in the country- including solar PV rooftop installations - in an effort to address the energy supply crisis. Government also recently announced that the procurement of renewable energy capacity in Bid Window 6 would be doubled from 2 600MW to 5 200MW. 

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