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Power4Home DIY Solar Power Guide

Solar Power and Solar Irradiation in South Africa

South Africa has been a little slow to begin developing its potential for solar power generation, but solar power is now beginning to increase in importance in this country's economy and electricity supply strategy.  One of the major inhibiting factors was the high initial cost of setting up a solar power system.  However, as the technology has improved and become cheaper, and as the supply of fossil fuel-based electricity has begun to fail to meet demand, leading to both power outages and sharp increases in electricity rates, solar power is fast gaining in popularity, and there are now several suppliers of the technology here.

In the last decade a team of South African scientists, led by Professor Vivian Alberts from the University of Johannesburg, developed a revolutionary new technology known as Thin Film Solar Technology (TFST), which uses a metal alloy and is cheaper, thinner and more efficient than the standard silicone technology used.  Although it is not yet as widely available as the silicone solar panels in South Africa, it is being produced in bulk in Germany, and will soon become cheaper and easier to get in this country. New regulations are now coming into place stipulating that most new buildings should incorporate solar water heating, and should be as energy efficient as possible and reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy, and this will encourage the spread of solar power in the country.

There has been much controversy over the renewable energy policies of the national electricity provider, Eskom.  The parastatal has recently taken the controversial decision to decrease feed-in tariffs (the money that is paid to electricity producers who supply electricity to the grid from renewable sources) which means that there will be less incentive for people to produce electricity for the grid.  However, it will also mean that energy from renewable sources will be cheaper, and since the price of fossil fuel-based electricity is increasing dramatically in South Africa, renewable energy may be cheaper than non-renewable within the next few years.

Solar irradiation map of South AfricaSouth Africa has an extremely high potential for solar power generation, since the majority of the country receives large amounts of sunshine all year round as depicted in the map to the left. Individual buildings, incorporating the latest technology, could supply the majority of their energy requirements through solar panels and solar water heaters mounted on their roofs and walls, and some may even be able to produce surplus electricity at times, which could be sold back to the grid. South Africa also has many suitable large open areas where concentrating solar power plants (huge arrays of solar panels) could be built to generate electricity for the grid. According to a research paper from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa has the potential to produce almost 550GW of electricity through such plants, which could be located in specific parts of the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape and the Free State. The location of such plants depends on many factors, including the amount of sunshine received, the conservation status of the local vegetation, current land-use, topography (slope), water supply and the proximity of transmission lines. At this stage, the government has announced plans to build one huge plant in the Northern Cape – it will be the biggest one in the world – which will produce 5GW, a tenth of the country's requirements.

The benefits of using solar power are clear. Once the initial costs of setting up a solar power system have been defrayed, households and businesses using solar power will save significant amounts of money by not buying electricity from the grid, and may even be able to make some money by selling any surplus back to the grid.  Using solar power also reduces the user's carbon footprint by reducing the amount of fossil fuel that needs to be combusted in order to satisfy their energy needs.  Furthermore, it reduces the user's dependence on electricity from the grid, which is set to become less and less reliable and more expensive as the demand for electricity in South Africa increases, and global fossil fuel prices also climb as the supply of fossil fuel dwindles.

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0 #1 Marietjie 2011-05-25 17:13
Good afternoon,

Eco-SA is a new eco-friendly web based company. We aim to give our clients a whole choice of energy saving products for home, etc.

We would like to enquire about possibly becoming resellers of your products. If you have no problem with this, could you please be so kind as to send us your price list as well as pictures of your products?

Do you have any pr-requisites from your side? If so, please don’t hesitate to send us all the information.

Thank you very much in advance,

Kind regards,

Marietjie Le Roux
Cell 082 815 1280 Fax | 086 676 3552
Email marietjie@jewel
0 #2 Mikhail Janowski 2011-09-12 15:55
Solar Homes does not sell solar equipment but I can recommend they have a wide selection of solar products and systems that might be suitable for your purpose. You did not specify if you wanted electric or hot water but they have both.

For a greener future!
0 #3 Soul 2011-10-17 19:19
The link for the article from the University of Stellenbosch does not work. Any idea who wrote the article so that I can google it?
0 #4 Mikhail Janowski 2011-10-17 21:43
Yes I see, the article must have been moved/removed and when I google it the other links are also broken. Fortunately I still had the article on my laptop, so I've uploaded it and changed the link above to point to it.
It was written by Thomas P. Fluri and the type of thin film solar panels it is about were developed by Vivian Alberts from the University of Johannesburg.
0 #5 Yavor 2012-01-16 12:23
Does anyone have data for the day duration (sunlight) in SA?
0 #6 Alex Powers 2012-02-13 01:07
Does anyone know the cost per kw/h for a home based solar system?
0 #7 Karen 2012-03-29 12:41
Good Day Sir/Madam

Would you please quote us on the following:

Solar Panel plus all accessories with these characteristics

80 watts and 100 watts

1500 watts converter

solar battery

Please would you provide us with the dimensions and weight as well.

+1 #8 Steve Twitchen 2012-04-17 11:19
I am a teacher at HCA in Hillcrest, KZN which is currebtly being rebuilt as it's just been bought by CURRO.

I am investigating the possibility of developing a project for the children where they can build and monitor a solar powered classroom. The idea is, of course, to generate an interest and knowledge in solar electricity generation as this will be a huge topic in the near future.

Please could you let me know if you are able to help us or perhaps if you know of any other companies/organisations that can help if you are unable to.

Many thanks

Steve Twitchen
(Hillcrest Christian Academy)

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