SOLAR

Biggest solar park in Africa

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The 1.2 megawatt Black River Park Solar Project has broken new ground in becoming the largest integrated PV plant in Africa and the first to legally transmit electricity back into the City of Cape Town’s electrical distribution network.

The 74 000 square metre office park in Observatory, home to in excess of a hundred various companies, is leading the way in sustainable commercial real estate as the solar system forms part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing its carbon footprint and becoming more self-reliant and efficient.

“The approval from the City of Cape Town marks a considerable breakthrough in the pursuit of electricity users who invest in independent power production to sell energy back to the distributors during periods where it is not needed on site,” says Chris Haw, Managing Director of SOLA Future Energy, and spokesperson for the South African PV Industry Association (SAPVIA).

“This is something that already occurs in most parts of the world and something we’ve been trying to implement in South Africa for years. We’re happy that this policy now applies to all solar projects that meet the city’s embedded generation requirements and we encourage all municipalities to follow suit,” adds Haw.

According to Prof. Mark Swilling, Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, municipalities are beginning to realize the small amount of lost revenue from allowing solar generation is more than compensated for by the increased economic activity as a result of improved efficiencies and higher attractiveness of the location to do business.

The total project size of 1.2MW makes it one of the world’s largest roof mounted solar PV systems, able to generate just under 2 million kWh per year from approximately 5 500 modules. The project has a guaranteed lifetime of 20 years and has minimal operational costs since the primary energy source, the sun, is free.

Apart from the savings generated, the solar system also attracts tenants to the office park that are placing increasing importance on being able to report sustainable business practices to their shareholders.

Typical solar PV system paybacks of 6-8 years can be expected in Cape Town for a system of this size, with is impressive considering the guaranteed solar panel operating lifetime of 25 years.

Financial savings for a grid-tied solar system are achieved through offsetting electricity consumption that an energy user would otherwise have procured from the municipality or energy utility, thus eliminating the need for expensive batteries as part of the system.

 

 

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