Cape Town electricity boost

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The 1.2MW 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 m2 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.

SOLA Future is a leading solar firm in South Africa responsible for the design, construction and operation of the project as well as the procurement of all regulatory approvals.

“What municipalities are beginning to realize is 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,” says Prof. Mark Swilling, Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch.

The total project size of 1.2MW makes it one of the world’s largest roof mounted solar PV systems, and the largest in Africa, 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.

The system’s over performance is mainly due to higher than expected peak demand savings added to the energy savings. The peak demand for air-conditioning, especially in summer, coincides with hot, clear days when the PV system is operating at capacity.

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.

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