2 March 2016
George Airport is only the second in the world that uses solar energy, following Cochin International Airport in India.
The first phase of the George solar project, officially opened by the Department of Transport and the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), is part of a R16-million plant that converts solar energy into direct current electricity using solar panels. The operation produces 680 kilowatts a day and powers 41% of the airport, with the aim to convert to 100% function by the end of the year.
Acsa describes the new project as the best way to reduce energy demand from the national grid and harness solar power to power smaller airports around the country. The initiative is part of the company’s Vision 2030. It plans to open two more solar plants to serve Kimberley and Upington over the next two years.
— African Construction (@AfriConstruct) February 29, 2016
The project falls under Acsa’s strategic environmental objectives which, in addition to reducing energy consumption, include minimising water consumption, increasing waste recycling, eradicating noise pollution and using energy efficient materials in all airports.
“Sustainability, in terms of our environment, means that we need to over time be very careful about how we use any form of energy and then also other natural resources, like water,” says Acsa group executive, Andre Vermeulen. “As a company, we have got a plan in terms of our footprint, in terms of how we are going to consume electricity and water – especially electricity. It is about reducing our carbon footprint and becoming a carbon neutral company.”
George Airport manager Brenda Vorster welcomed the project, which currently powers the airport’s car rental area, cargo warehousing, flight schools and airline offices, adding that “our second phase will be starting within the next year”.
Minister Peters calls the project an enhancement for not only the airport industry, but also for the people of the area. “This is a way of contributing jobs. There were people who worked here during construction and we now know there are about 16 permanent jobs that have been created by this plant at the airport. We are also happy to indicate that the other regional airports will also be looking at how they’ll be able to introduce renewable energy.”
Energy and transport were two crucial government portfolios in fulfilling the goals of the National Development Plan’s own Vision 2030 for the development of the country as a whole, she added.