12 October 2012
The City of Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, showed its commitment to promoting low-carbon technologies when executive mayor Mondli Gungubele unveiled the first solar plant of its kind in South Africa on Friday.
The solar power plant, situated at the environmentally friendly OR Tambo Precinct in Wattville outside Benoni, produces about 200 kW of electricity through 860 PV (photovoltaic) solar panels on 2 500 square metres of land, generating enough energy to power about 133 low-cost houses.
“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,” Gungubele said.
“This will go a long way in relieving the surging costs of electricity for the poor.”
The solar plant makes further use of specialised techniques such as rammed earth, strawbale and cob wall construction, green roof technology, and thermal mass earth flooring.
Project director Tshilidzi Thenga said solar panels harvested the sun’s light and turned it into energy that could be used for a lots of things.
“They are also referred to as active solar power producers,” Thenga said. “During the day, if exposed to sunlight, these solar cells will collect the energy that comes 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 would work at night and during cloudy weather conditions, Thenga said: “The beauty with the type of PV solar panels used here … is that they can still generate electricity even during cloudy weather.”
He said the energy produced by the solar pant would be connected to the grid using 18 inverters and one combiner unit.