The Future Today
The CEO’s and business leaders of today are more convinced than ever of the need to incorporate environmentally sustainable sources of energy within their business. Educated by example, it’s become painstakingly apparent that a total reliance on Eskom for a municipal supply of uninterrupted electricity in unfortunately no longer an option. While sustainable alternative energy initiatives started as a moral obligation and means of PR enhancement, they have now become an undeniable key business differentiator in ensuring stable productivity, meeting targets and maintaining client relationships. Organisations of all sizes are finding ways to create competitive advantages through their environmental energy efficiency initiatives, resulting in lower costs, increased brand value, reduced risks, new and innovative products and services, the increased trust of shareholders and enhanced appeal and loyalty from customers and employees. But every winning ship needs a captain and crew, the cogs and wheels that turn and function syncretically to allow a flawless operation to take place. Our next series of posts will deal with the rising stars of South Africa’s Energy Future.
We have all been made painstakingly aware that the days of relying on stable, low-cost electricity from our municipality area thing of the past. As the bleak outlook of our country’s energy reality plays out before our eyes, so too do we see an ever-increasing amount of households and businesses considering sustainable energy options to ensure that they are less dependent on Eskom, and doing so in an environmentally friendly way. Given the versatility of situations and environments that Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can be installed in; from areas of open expanse like the semi-deserts of the Karoo to the unutilised rooftops of big office buildings, with the right assessments and feasibility studies, Solar PV panels have near limitless installation options. Solar PV panelling has been installed to cover parking spaces giving the dual benefits of charging electric cars during daylight hours while offering shade. Advantages of solar energy include that it is a noise free, odourless and carbon emission free power source during its energy-generating phase. In addition, its proven and an established technology when compared to some of the other renewable energy options.
Under The African Sun
The energy (expense) needed for the construction of the panels can (depending on the location of installation) be recovered in 1.5 to 4 years, however, the guaranteed lifetime of the panels is up to 25 years. With South Africa having an average of almost 300 days of sunshine per year, and the Northern Cape and North West province possessing one of the highest direct normal irradiation (DNI) levels in the world (according to the World Radiation Data Centre). This reduces the relative cost of solar electricity in South Africa and means that the Solar PV industry will be the major renewable energy supplier in the future. In 2016, South Africa had 1,329 MW of installed solar power capacity with installed capacity is expected to reach 8,400 MW by 2030. ( Sources – “Monitoring of Renewable Energy Performance 2016”: www.nersa.org.za. and “Solar energy in South Africa – REVE”: www.evwind.es )
According to a worldwide study done by the Florida Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation, it is estimated that about seven direct full-time equivalent jobs per MW are created for the construction of commercial and utility-scale PV plants. Per MW, another 16.8 and 0.7 full-time jobs are created for manufacturing and operation respectively. These jobs will require a variety of different skills ranging from administration to electricians, structural and electrical engineers among others. In line with the South African IRP 2010 – 2030 and a total assumed solar PV capacity of 300 MW per year in the short term and a total of 4900 MW until 2025, would result in the creation of 3816 jobs in the short term and 13541 jobs until 2025. In order to achieve and fulfil this job creation, it is important that the necessary skills required will be available to enable local manufacturing and issues around grid connectivity and transmission system capacity will not inhibit the development of PV plants in South Africa.