Solar energy system to power Diepsloot skills centre

By: Jacqueline Holman

Published: 29 Apr 10

The City of Johannesburg (CoJ), the Department of Mineral Resources and cement manufacturer Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) on Thursday launched the Diepsloot skills development centre solar energy system, a R1,7-million project consisting of 75 photovoltaic panels to provide the centre with electricity.

PPC fully funded the project as part of its corporate social investment strategy and its Laezonia operation's social and labour plan.

CoJ department of urban management director of development management
Tiaan Ehlers said that Diepsloot had been marginalised in many ways and that electricity was seen as a big problem.

Regional director of CoJ Region A, Dr
Thembani Masilo, added that the area had been highlighted in regional development planning and that a task team was formed nine months ago to integrate all the skills needed to build the system.

PPC Mooiplaas executive aggregates manager
Riaan Redelinghuys pointed out that the electricity supplied by the solar system would assist in making future developments, such as computer-based training, possible.

CoJ deputy director for human development
Carina van Zyl said that the solar energy system would allow more training projects to move into the centre, adding that a youth advisory centre would be established by mid July.

Alternative energy project development firm Unlimited Energy director
Theo Covary explained that, after this first installation, the 55-kW system should last for ten years without any additional costs. The low maintenance facility, which uses the latest technology powered by the sun, should also remain continuously operational, even in the event of a municipal power outage, as a battery room had been built to store two-days worth of electricity.

Ehlers stated that the system is a unique solution that uses a natural resource to make a community facility usable and workable and provides 110 community members with income through its sewing and soap-making activities, which would also soon include candle-making.


South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday officially launched the National Solar Water Heating (SWH) programme in Winterveldt, north-west of Pretoria, where some 270 SWH units have already been installed.

The government has the ambition of installing one-million solar water heaters across South Africa by 2014, and is aiming at creating the best policy and legislative environment for this to be achieved.

A total of 10 400 units were earmarked to be delivered in the City of Tshwane alone, and residents wishing to take part in the programme would need to register with the municipality if they were willing to participate in the programme.

Local municipalities and the Development Bank of Southern Africa were co-ordinating the programme, with funding coming from a number of sources, such as Eskom's demand side management budget, the proposed National Energy Regulator of South Africa renewable energy feed-in-tariff, and the World Bank's Clean Technology Fund.

Similar programmes have also started in Ekhurhuleni, and in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, which were initially started by the Central Energy Fund, but have been incorporated into the larger programme.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters explained that the units installed in Winterveldt were imported, as would be the case with the first 200 000 units installed through the programme, as the country gears up its manufacturing capacity towards SWH.

"We could roll out faster, but we don't have the technology - that is why we have to rely on those that are importing the technology. And that is why it is important that these are SABS [South African Bureau of Standards] approved," Peters said, adding that by the second year of the programme, more locally manufactured units would be installed.

The systems installed in Winterveldt were supplied by local distributor Inti Solar, and installed by energy services company Grinpal.

Ten people from the local community were trained on installation, and contracted to install the systems. Once trained and confident, between 60 and 80 SWH units could be installed a week by these installers, who work in teams of two.

Department of Energy Director General Nelisiwe Magubane said that further roll-outs were planned to take place this year at Sol Plaatjie in the Northern Cape, as well as in Ventersburg, in the Free State.

Zuma explained to residents from the informal settlement gathered at the launch that using renewable energy reduced the need to use coal-generated electricity, thereby reducing pollution. However beyond offering environmental benefits, it also offered cost and health benefits.

He further urged the community to take care of the solar water heaters that they received