MTN goes green with co-generation

16 August 2010

In an effort to increase savings through the development of a self-sustaining power supply initiative, telecoms company MTN has installed a two megawatt, methane-driven tri-generation plant – the first of its kind in Africa – at its offices in Fairlands, Johannesburg.

Speaking at the launch of the plant earlier this month, MTN South Africa MD Karel Pienaar said that given the current climate, there was greater pressure on companies to do more with less in a responsible and sustainable way, and also reduce their carbon footprint.

Additionally, the project would also ensure that the company’s expansion plans were not hampered due to a lack of power supply needed.

“The tri-generation plant is the result of a unique solution to meet our strategic objectives – it will generate electricity and, through a second re-absorption chiller cycle using the waste heat, will generate water for the air-conditioning systems in our buildings,” Pienaar said in a statement.

“The idea of using methane gas to generate energy got us all thinking and the tri-generation power plant is the end result.”

Reduce consumption, increase saving

Methane gas is a clean-burning, sustainable gas that is reliable and offers a consistent supply. The gas will be sourced from the Mozambique, and is transported to MTN’s Fairland offices via Sasol in Secunda and Johannesburg’s Egoli Gas.

“Today, we are about to witness what was just a plan in October 2008, becoming a reality, in enabling us to manage potential energy shortages and reduce power consumption, increase savings, and initiate a sustainability model to reduce our carbon footprint.

“This plant will also assist us in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the electricity consumption here at our headquarters, resulting in a reduction of coal-based electricity generation and its associated environmental consequences,” said Pienaar.

When the plant is fully operational and producing two megawatt of power, MTN expects a return on its investment of R22-million within a five-year period.

Shift to low-carbon economy

Also speaking at the function at MTN, Deputy Communications Minister Dina Pule commented: “Nothing less than a shift from a high to a low carbon global economy is required and in many cases, ICTs appear to offer the best way to accelerate this.

“Therefore, I am elated to witness that your growing corporate footprint is consistent with your thrust to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, it is comforting to see that you are going the extra mile to make our sector even greener and safer for future generations.

“This tri-generator plant electricity plant by MTN is evidence that you are an environmentally-friendly and good corporate citizen,” Pule said.

Cooling by-product

As a spin-off, the plant will produce an estimated 800kW of cooling for free, resulting in further savings in the building’s air conditioning processes.

Using the tri-generation plant, methane gas is burned in the machines and the energy created by the gas-fired engines generates heat and electricity. The waste heat from the engines will be used in the absorption chiller to cool the water.

This chilled water is then supplied to the air-handling units that supply the cooled air for the electronic equipment housed in the new building – the test switch centre on the ground floor and the data centre on the first floor.

The water from the six huge cooling towers is used to cool down the heat from the engines. As it is not used in the absorption cycle, this “grey water” is then recycled through the Phase 1 and Phase 2 buildings on the MTN campus to flush the toilets.

All the plant’s processes have been designed to result in savings in the water and electricity costs. And, once it is running at 100% capacity, the plant’s load excess will power and cool the campus.

“Through our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our focus on sustainability and our ‘Greening 14th Avenue’ initiative, MTN Group is showing its commitment to lead by example,” said MTN Group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko.

“And, what better way to do this than by creating our own source of sustainable energy.”

SAinfo reporter

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