22 November 2011
South African state company Eskom has embarked on a pilot project that will see it using the power of the sun to generate electricity at three of its facilities.
The power utility, together with Pubic Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, launched a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at its Lethabo Power Station near Vereeniging in Gauteng province on Monday.
The launch is the first stage of a project designed to introduce renewable energy sources to supply power for internal use at Eskom’s coal-fired power stations and reduce the company’s carbon footprint by about 2 845 tons a year.
Solar PV technologies use the power of the sun to generate electricity, and there are currently three types being tested by Eskom.
Eskom CEO Brian Dames said there were three pilot facilities – at Lethabo, Kendal in Mpumalanga province, and Eskom’s Head Office at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg – at a cost of roughly R90-million.
‘Commitment to lower-carbon future’
This project was a milestone for Eskom and demonstrated its commitment to moving to a lower-carbon future, he said.
Dames explained that the company examined its existing generation fleet and looked at ways of reducing its carbon footprint – an initiative in which solar PV would play a significant role.
Eskom was also looking into other renewable sources.
“We have undertaken to invest in renewable energy projects, and in cleaner coal technologies, and these solar panels are an important first step towards that,” he said.
Gigaba said South Africa was committed to reducing its carbon emissions. His department, in particular, was working with state-owned companies, including Eskom, to make a contribution to the mitigation and reduction of climate change.
Balancing commercial, environmental objectives
“We want to manage this in a manner that is able to balance … the commercial, financial, environmental and economic objectives so that they are aligned,” the minister said.
“Eskom, with its two renewable energy projects, the Sere Wind Farm and Concentrated Solar Power, will serve as a catalyst to develop the renewable energy industry. Through these two renewable energy projects, South Africa has the opportunity to be a hub for developing renewable energy technology to the rest of the African continent.”
According to Eskom, lessons learned at the pilot plants will support the rollout of these systems across all its coal-fired stations over time.
The pilot plants – each at one hectare – are located on greenfield sites adjacent to the three coal-fired power stations.
The electricity generated from the solar PV plants at the Lethabo and Kendal power stations will provide power during daylight hours for the administration buildings, security and terrace lighting and unit lighting board, resulting in a reduction of auxiliary power consumption.
The units at Megawatt Park will supply 5% of auxiliary power to its administration building.
The total electricity generated from all these solar PV plants is 1.55MW and could power about 1 900 standard suburban houses with an assumed consumption of 200 KWh per month.