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Thursday Sep 25, 2014

Cape Town signs solar power deal

The City of Cape Town is to tap into Africa's largest rooftop solar power system, at Black River Park, making it less dependent on Eskom for electricity.

'This project is the first significant project of its nature and size in Cape Town. But to show other members of the industry, such as the Waterfront, that this is possible to implement on a large scale and that it is viable, we have to produce returns for shareholders and show that it makes rand and sense. It really does make money and together with the city it can happen quite quickly,' said PJ Rabie, of Black River Park Investments.

PJ Rabie of Black River Park Investments and Dominic Chennells of Sola Future Energy among the solar panels.

He said one-third of the total spend on the R20 million project was for local skills and materials from Cape Town, meaning that R6m was injected back to the city.

The office complex's photovoltaic (PV) installation has already produced about 1 368 megawatt hours, which is equivalent to running 157 houses for a year, during its initial implementation phase.

Mayor Patricia de Lille signed a contract yesterday that will see Black River Park feeding a limited amount of the extra energy generated by its solar panel system back into the electricity grid. This will be offset against the office complex's monthly electricity account.

De Lille said this would be the first of many small-scale embedded generation installations to be connected to the city's grid.

Consumers would have to instal a bidirectional advanced meter at their own cost if they wanted to feed into the city's power grid.

De Lille said the city had set a target of sourcing 10 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

South Africa's electricity generation was 'notoriously environmentally unfriendly', as it relied heavily on coal, she said.

'Our over-reliance on fossil fuels for our energy needs therefore can't continue unabated, and we as a city need to do everything possible to pursue alternative, cleaner sources of energy.'

Brian Jones, head of green energy for the city, said that while strides were being made with installation of solar water heaters for residential users, the municipality was 'a way off ' when it came to meeting its target for other renewable energy installations. But he added that there was 'huge potential' for PV systems as an alternative energy source.

Dominic Chessell of Sola Future Energy said the panels had a life of about 25 years. The cost of installation would be recovered within six to eight years, making this a financially viable energy option.

The solar panels on the Black River Park complex roof cover 11 000m2, roughly equivalent to two full-sized rugby fields, and they generate between 20 percent and 30 percent of the complex's electricity requirements.

The expansion in phase two of this project will bring the total installed solar capacity to 1.2 megawatts, making it among the 30 largest roof integrated solar PV systems in the world.

Cape Argus


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