South Africa Launches First Solar Plant

Benoni - The City of Ekurhuleni showed its commitment to promote low carbon technologies when executive mayor, Mondli Gungubele officially unveiled the first and only solar plant in the country in Wattville, outside Benoni, on Friday.

The solar power plant, situated at the environmentally friendly OR Tambo Precinct, produces about 200 kW of electricity through 860 PV (photovoltaic) solar panels on 2,500 m² of land generating enough energy to power about 133 low cost houses.

Gungubele said the solar power is a sign of human care by the City in terms of improving the living conditions of residents. This solar plant is also signaling greater things to come in our City, he said.

He said the City is committed to promote the up-take of renewable energy as this will enhance them to become a progressive low carbon friendly City.

This technology is the future in terms of saving the consumption of electricity, taking advantage of the sun as well as keeping our planet green and healthy, which has healthy benefits to us as well.

This will go a long way in relieving the surging costs of electricity for the poor, he said.

The launch of the renewable energy project is in line with Ekurhuleni's Energy Strategy that identifies proactive promotion of green power as key for creating a sustainable future for the municipality.

At the solar plant there are specialised techniques such as rammed earth, strawbale and cob wall construction, green roof technology, thermal mass earth flooring.

Project director, Tshilidzi Thenga said solar panels are devices that harvest the sun's light and turn it into energy that can be used for a lots of things.

They are also referred to as active solar power producers. During the day, if exposed to sunlight, these solar cells will collect the energy that come from the sun and transform it into electrical power that is stored in special batteries attached to the solar panel, he said.

Asked if the solar power will work at night and during cloudy weather conditions, Thenga said: The beauty with the type of PV solar panels used here in Leeupan solar power plant is that they can still generate electricity even during the cloudy weather.

According to Thenga some of the advantages of solar energy are that they are not costly, no fuels, waste, or pollution expelled to the atmosphere.

Thenga said as the City's energy Division, they are committed to proactively promote Green Energy as a key for creating a sustainable future for their Metropolitan municipality.

He said the energy to be produced from the solar pant will be connected into the grid using 18 inverters and one combiner unit.

We are envisaging connecting a 300 m cable from the combiner unit, laid into a cable trench to an existing power grid via 380 V kiosk, he said, adding that a 25 metre high Mast Pole with 6 LED spot lights and separate PV panels will be used to serve as a security light to aluminate the site at night.

This he said will be done to reduce the level of theft during the night.

The solar PV plant is made up of solar panels mounted on a support steel structures and are connected together in strings.

An inverter located in the storage house converts direct electricity current generated by the solar generator into alternating current that are fed into the municipal power grid.

According to Thenga, the operation and maintenance of the power plant is done by simple manual cleaning of the solar panels from rain water and dust.

He said solar panels are expected to last for 20 to 25 or more if they are properly maintained.

Nthambeleni Gabara