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Prof. Philip Koko, senior lecturer in Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Central University of Technology, Free State.Photo: Supplied
Prof. Philip Koko, senior lecturer in Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Central University of Technology, Free State.Photo: Supplied

The Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, is reaping rewards after investing in renewable energy solutions.

With a well-established 153,7 kWp Solar photovoltaic plan at the Bloemfontein campus, the institution is saving significant amounts.

The plant, strategically located at the sports field, is fitted with 12 PV solar arrays for the purpose of generating electricity.

“Electricity cost saving usually depends on the amount of the generated electricity per annum as a result of sunlight hours, as well as the tariff charges incurred by Centlec per kWh of electricity consumption,” said Prof. Philip Koko, senior lecturer in Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering.

“Hence, in 2019, the solar panels have generated approximately 405 MWh of electricity energy, which resulted in electricity cost savings of R878 416.

“In 2020, 325,7 MWh of energy was generated by the solar PV system, which resulted in electricity cost savings of R706 769.”

Besides saving on electricity costs, the solar plant offers students an opportunity to expand their research work and discover how their research is paving the way for a better future through solar photovoltaic energy.

The solar plant serves as a big laboratory for research projects by young and senior academics, as well the site of practical classes for engineering students.

According to Koko, the plant benefits students by assisting them to acquire some real-time data which can be used for post-graduate studies or research.

“Some research studies have been conducted to improve the efficiency of the installed solar panels. To date, two of the 12 trackers have been equipped with the glass-on-glass panels instead of the standard panels. This has proved to increase the efficiency from 18,2% to 21,1%, thereby achieving more electricity cost savings.”

The CUT aims to establish itself as one of the leading institutions in renewable energy solutions and become a key role player in the provision of renewable energy while offering post-graduate students the opportunity to further study the benefits of solar power.

According to Prof. Alfred Ngowi, acting vice-chancellor and principal at the CUT, the installation of the solar plant is an important milestone for the university.

“The CUT is in support of the national development trajectory, which shows a policy shift in the way energy is now going to be regulated.

“We see opportunities for investment in this area to expand our knowledge and research while addressing the challenge between the supply and demand of energy.”

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