MTN HQ to go solar as load-shedding bites

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 30 Sept 2022
MTN launched a request for proposal that will see its headquarters becoming a completely “green” office.
MTN launched a request for proposal that will see its headquarters becoming a completely “green” office.

Mobile operator MTN plans to power its Johannesburg headquarters with solar energy, as South Africa’s power shortage intensifies.

The largest mobile operator on the African continent has launched a request for proposal (RFP) that will see its headquarters become a completely “green” office.

MTN says it will deploy a four-phase green energy programme in pursuit of its net zero ambitions.

The announcement comes as several businesses and households are pursuing alternative energy sources, as power utility Eskom struggles to keep the lights on.

According to MTN, phase one of its green energy programme involves the procurement of providers for alternative energy rooftops and solar carparks. This forms part of the company’s broader Project Zero initiative, which explores all forms of renewable energy on a large and smaller scale.

MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi says apart from helping manage the current rolling power cut challenges, MTN’s energy strategy addresses a broad array of immediate climate and energy challenges.

The strategy includes mitigation initiatives to minimise and/or eliminate the impacts of climate change, while reducing energy costs and dependence on fossil fuels, the company says.

“Climate action is imperative to secure the future socio-economic development of Africa. In South Africa, we acknowledge the importance of balancing the reduction of our impact on the environment with the need to connect more people to high-speed broadband,” says Molapisi.

“We are adopting appropriate mitigation measures that are enabling MTN and its people to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel generated power. Our focus is to reduce any unnecessary use of energy, create more energy-efficiencies, increase the use of renewable energy and generate more value from conventional sources, such as heat.”

The MTN Net Zero Energy Project will be implemented in four phases:

• Phase one facility – 14th Avenue campus rooftop and solar carports in car parks.

• Phase two facility – ground mounted solar facility on vacant land adjacent to 14th Avenue campus.

• Phase three – rooftop and ground mounted solar at various other MTN facilities.

• Phase four – off-site wheeling from renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs).

The company believes implementing the renewable energy project will result in improved reliability and cost-effectiveness of electricity supply.

It points out that phase one could see an anticipated 7 143MWH generated (one MWH is equal to 1 000 kilowatts of electricity generated per hour).

These projections are subject to final bid approvals and evaluations, says MTN, noting the preferred bidder notification for phase one is expected in December.

“The capacity of the facility will be determined by bidders after having considered the availability of rooftop and carpark areas, and its suitability for the purposes of extracting maximum capacity,” Molapisi says.

“However, it is clear based on current expectations that as we move through the phases, this should be more than enough to move to complete energy self-sufficiency of our building, surrounds and assist greatly in our move to embedding alternative energy solutions into everything we do.”

Meanwhile, investing in large IPP programmes will reduce MTN SA’s carbon emissions, contributing to the group-wide 2040 net zero strategy.

MTN SA is utilising its IPP licence for self-generation by using combined cooling heat and power technology (Tri Generation) at three of its switching centres to generate 4.75MW of power to support building electrical base load, and to be only partially dependent on the Eskom grid.

It also has 30 off-grid renewable energy facilities that generate an additional 57kW in remote areas where there are no space constraints.

“We see this as an opportunity to explore all forms of renewable energy, large and smaller scale systems, as well as investing in large IPP feasibility programmes, which when implemented will reduce our carbon emissions as part of our Project Zero programme to achieve net zero by 2040,” says Molapisi.

The plan is also aimed at ensuring network stability, where battery solutions and backup generation remain pivotal.

“The challenge of providing renewable energy at all of our base station facilities is that this is heavily dependent on space to accommodate large solar arrays to suit our power requirements to support the latest network technology (5G).

“Our current backup power methodology is mainly battery backup, with key sites having permanent onsite generators and MTN deploying mobile backup generators where and when required,” concludes Molapisi.