Exploration by the Central University of Technology (CUT) into solar energy started in 2013 and it culminated with the launch of the first solar energy project called the Solar-Flower.
It was unveiled on 4 September at the Bloemfontein campus. This is the first renewable energy project by CUT since embarking on a project to harness the power of the sun.
Work started five years ago with an invention device by CUT engineers.
Dan Maritz, CUT spokesperson, said the Solar-Flower, the steel construction of the device, was done in the mechanical workshop at the Bloemfontein campus.
“The solar station allowed students to charge their devices on campus and are placed in strategic positions around both campuses. This is historic for our engineers who are the backbones of technological innovations at CUT.
“Through renewable energy they showcased a new innovative solar project that is aimed at reducing electricity consumption for the campus,” said Maritz.
He said the solar panel has the capacity of providing electrical power to 200 to 250 average sized houses.
“Besides providing a practical solution to a growing problem on campus, it also gives us an opportunity to introduce all students and staff members to the use of sustainable energy,” said Prof. Herman Vermaak, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology.
He said the next step for the team was to experiment with solar panels used as the electricity source for a building after the innovation phase.
“In 2014, the then newly erected engineering building was the first construction on campus to have solar panels placed on the roof and over time, the third and second floor of the building was taken of the power grid,” said Vermaak.
This year, CUT decided to upscale the project with the installation of a solar plant that will produce 153,59 kWp through ground-mounted 8 m high panels secured on masts.
Vermaak said the power generated will be fed into the local grid of the university which will be closely monitored.
“The monitoring will also extend to temperature and irradiation to train staff and students involved in the project. The project is cost-saving to the institution’s high bill. By generating our own electricity, we are also looking to reduce our footprint.”
CUT is confident about the opportunities the project will create for learning more about solar.
“We may even outperform a similar plant that stands at South Africa’s premier scientific research and development organisation in Pretoria, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,” said Vermaak.