With more than 2,500 hours of sunlight every year, South Africa has embarked on a mission to tap into this unused local resource by creating solar-powered airports across the country.
So far, there are six “green” airports across the country and plans to build more in the region are already underway.
The solar-powered airports, which are the first ones in Africa, are an initiative of the state-run airport management firm Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), whose long-term plan is to “greenify” all airports under its management and attain carbon neutrality by the year 2025.
Embracing the Future of Energy
With the ambitious project already in motion, ACSA is optimistic that it will minimize the mounting pressure on the country’s constrained power grid by 50 percent.
Currently, only 45 percent of power consumed by the six South African airports is solar, the remaining 55 percent is obtained from the national grid.
But according to ACSA’s corporate affairs senior manager, Senzeni Ndebele, all airports are expected to be able to produce their own energy in due course.
Although some large-scale firms in South Africa are reluctant to buy renewable energy saying it’s expensive, many small-scale enterprises like airports and shopping centers are already taking advantage of the country’s emerging solar sector.
The six South African solar-powered airports include George Airport, Kimberley Airport, Upington Airport, Port Elizabeth International Airport, Bram Fischer International Airport, and East London Airport.
At Upington Airport, located in Upington, Northern Cape Town, a mega solar plant that generates 1 million kilowatts per year has proved a valuable asset to the airport as it has reduced power consumption from the national grid by almost half.
A Green Future
Solar energy is set to become the main source of power for businesses and homes, not just in South Africa, but across the continent. It is expected to offer a cheap and reliable alternative to other hazardous forms of energy like coal and thermal.
The South African Department of Energy has already announced its plan to completely replace the current coal burning power stations with wind, solar and nuclear power plants.
Apart from lowering the cost of doing business, solar energy is also considered more reliable and environmental friendly as it eliminates emissions and utilizes a limitless energy resource.
Many experts are now certain that solar energy is the main clean contributor to solving Africa’s persistent energy crisis.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI,