The first commercial solar PV system in the township of Khayelitsha was commissioned on the Khayelitsha Environmental Health Organisation building earlier this month by SOLA Future Energy on behalf of the City of Cape Town.

The 17kW system is guaranteed to generate in excess of 700,000 kWh over the course of its life. Co-founder and Managing Director of SOLA Future, Chris Haw, believes the solar system is a positive development for the industry.

“Solar photovoltaic power generation is gathering momentum in South Africa as hundreds of Megawatts of gigantic power plants are connected to the electricity grid. These plants, which are procured as part of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), are sophisticated projects of massive scale. Now, however, solar is showing its versatility by making electricity available to under-privileged communities at smaller scales,’’ says Haw.

“The solar PV industry in South Africa has been driven by procurement and construction of large power stations involving international funders. Experience and competition in those projects have brought the equipment and installation prices down making solar PV energy cheaper than what can be purchased from the grid as a residential or small commercial consumer. Projects like this demonstrate the scalability of the technology and why it has such a role to play in our future supply mix,’’ says Haw.

The solar system was procured by the City of Cape Town’s Department of Public Works in an effort to make the building more sustainable and to raise awareness in the area.

Although procured by the City of Cape Town the solar system is connected within the Eskom distribution network and therefore does not stand to benefit from the City of Cape Town’s bi-directional tariff. To be compliant it must be entirely for “own use” and therefore requires expensive energy curtailment equipment to prevent export when there is excess solar energy. The system includes a public display screen which showcases the performance of the plant.