South Africans can be more than proud with the official launching by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters of the 200²m George Airport Solar Power Plant. This is a first on the African continent and second in the entire world, to draw electricity from clean energy sources which will allow the airport to be totally operational devoid of the country’s electricity grid.

Cost of the solar project

At a cost of R16 million, completion of the solar plant was done in six months, two months ahead of schedule and is now converting solar energy into direct current electricity utilising 3000 photovoltaic panels that transfer solar radiation into electricity producing 680 kilowatts per day. This first phase of the project is providing 41% of the airport’s present energy requirements with the balance drawn from the national grid. The plant has been designed to deliver, on completion 750Kw power to the airport.

Stated by Airport Manager, Brenda Vorster, “The first phase is now completed and we are very excited that we have been using 41% going into the airport. Our second phase will be starting within the next year. It is currently being distributed to car rentals, the cargo area, our flight schools, air side, land side and airlines. Every single stakeholder’s power is being generated from our solar panels.”

The airport will source 100 per cent of its energy from the plant, over the next year.

It’s mission & vision

At the opening ceremony of the plant Skhumbuzo Macozoma, Chairman of the Airports Company South Africa Board said the company plans to introduce an energy mix in all its airports with its long term vision (from 2025 -2030), for achieving carbon neutrality in energy intake and operating Green Airports in order to accomplish a Green Building Council of South Africa 6 star rating.

“As an airports management company running nine airports nationally, part of our strategic objective is to minimise our environmental impact. There are a number of key drivers Airports Company South Africa needs to manage to reach this objective and these include reducing energy consumption, water consumption, percentage of waste recycled, noise levels and energy efficient materials usage, amongst others.

“Harnessing solar power is a viable cleaner energy source which contributes towards diversifying the energy mix. This plant will ensure that the airport is self-sustaining in terms of its power needs and will eventually extend to the broader community within the George municipality.”

‘Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) stated that Kimberley and Upington airports are next to ‘go green’.

According to ACSA Group Executive, Andre Vermeulen, “Sustainability, in terms of our environment, means that we need to over time be very careful about how we use any form of energy and then also other natural resources, like water.  As a company, we have got a plan in terms of our footprint, in terms of how we are going to consume electricity and water- especially on electricity. It is about reducing our carbon footprint and becoming a carbon neutral company.”

The project has been acclaimed as an enormous success by the Department of Transport.

“This is a way of contributing jobs. There were people who worked here during construction and we now know there are about 16 permanent jobs that have been created by this plant at the airport. We are also happy to indicate that the other regional airports will also be looking at how they’ll be able to introduce renewable energy,” says Peters.

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