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SOLAR ELECTRIFICATION: Gauteng Government Launches Solar Energy Project


Recent Gauteng Business News

A new rural solar energy electrification project was officially unveiled recently at Winterveldt Sports Ground northwest of Pretoria by Gauteng Economic Development MEC Ms Qedani Mahlangu.

The solar energy electrification project was initiated by The Innovation Hub in an effort with the City of Tshwane to provide solar electricity to 50 rural homes.

The installation, which began in February this year and was completed this week, harnesses enough solar energy to power lights inside and outside the homes, two plug points for small appliances, solar water heaters for hot water and a gas stove and gas cylinders for cooking.

The Innovation Hub is a subsidiary of Blue IQ Investment Holdings, which is an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development.

Solar Energy Adds to Quality of Life

Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Ms Qedani Mahlangu says the project is aimed at providing an enabling environment for economic development by addressing the socio-economic conditions of Gauteng communities. “Many of those who now have solar energy power are unemployed or are pensioners who survive on grants. The recipients also include people with disabilities, so this project will have a massive impact on their quality of life,” she says.

The project is in line with the government’s target of installing at least one million solar water heaters by 2014 to reduce the water heating load on the national grid. “In addition, solar energy installations will generate employment and contribute to Gauteng’s Green Economy by mitigating climate change, contributing to clean energy generation, security and self-efficiency,” says Mahlangu.

McLean Sibanda, The Innovation Hub CEO, says that the installation aims to address the significant challenges of broad access to electricity and energy security in Gauteng. “There are significant resource constraints to delivering electricity. As The Innovation Hub, we are pleased to be involved in this project,” says Sibanda.

Job Creation with Solar Energy

The project has the potential to generate five temporary jobs with each system installation. Five people from the Winterveldt community underwent training for the implementation process. “Solar energy has been identified by the Gauteng government as an obvious renewable energy source with the potential to satisfy much of the province’s domestic energy needs. This project provides a possible model for the provision of sustainable power to households in Gauteng,” explains Sibanda.

There are further opportunities to increase local skills related to the maintenance and operation of tasks that are not automated.
Sydney Sibanyoni, a Winterveldt resident who received the solar energy power in his home, said: “I am very happy today to have lights and a gas stove in my house. My life will be better, thank you!”

South Africa is highly dependent on fossil fuels for its electricity generation and other energy needs. In line with South Africa’s stance on sustainable development and climate change, fundamental changes and adjustments are needed in energy generation and energy provision. As the third highest energy consumer, household electricity generation is an important target to assist in the achievement of Gauteng’s goal of obtaining 7% of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar energy by 2014, and 16% by 2025.

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