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ENERGY: Breakthroughs Put Solar at Heart Of SA’s Energy Plans

 





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A clear commitment by Government towards using alternative energy sources to meet South Africa’s energy needs, combined with recent technological breakthroughs, have put renewable energy at the heart of South Africa’s future energy requirements, with solar energy in particular gaining traction.

The Government recently announced plans for a huge solar park in the Northern Cape with the first energy expected to come on stream by 2012. The park aims to achieve 5 000 MW of electricity – currently one-tenth of South Africa's energy needs – by the end of the first decade.

According to Carlman Moyo, Regional director for DuPont Sub-Saharan Africa - the global leader of market driven science, if the solar park achieves the planned 5 000 MW of electricity it will be the largest in the world. “This initiative clearly puts South Africa at the heart of the global drive to source energy requirements from renewable sources and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to building a sustainable energy base.”

He says recent technological developments in the field of solar power also suggest that this presents one of the most viable forms of renewable energy for South Africa. “Currently around 90% of the industry uses crystalline silicon technology but we believe that the second generation of photovoltaic technology, which is thinner, more flexible and more efficient, is likely to drive further demand for solar energy in the future,” says Moyo.

“Thin film solar cells are attracting a lot of attention as the technology will give architects the opportunity to include solar energy as attractive and less inconspicuous features in building designs.”

Moyo says photovoltaic cells, which are assembled into modules that can be mounted on a roof or in a solar park, have traditionally been unattractive from an aesthetics point of view as well as being extremely cumbersome to install.

“Solar energy is one of the most abundant forms of energy in South Africa and because of the nature of the technology it can be generated pretty much anywhere in the country - from small domestic scale right up to massive solar parks.”

DuPont expects the photovoltaic industry to increase by 50% in the next year as the solar industry experiences strong growth from market demand for new installations. “Policies which promote renewables and help consumers perceiving economical and environmental advantages will mark the speed and strength of growth of this strategic energy sector,” says Moyo.

Moyo predicts that the photovoltaic panels are likely to be adopted first on a residential level and will then filter into commercial applications at a later stage.

“The barriers to renewable energy adoption in South Africa are continuing to fall away and we expect increased take-up as consumers increasingly recognise the government’s commitment and enthusiasm for such technology and buy into new technological advancements.”

 
 
 
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