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R6m green energy project targets WCape no-fee schools

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 15 Aug 2022
Cloetesville Primary School.
Cloetesville Primary School.

Some 100 no-fee schools in the Western Cape are set to benefit from green energy interventions being rolled out in the province.

The project, valued at R6 million, will see start-up GreenX Engineering conduct extensive energy audits at the various schools to determine how it can retrofit them with energy-saving lights and meters to measure and manage their usage.

GreenX is a spinout company of Stellenbosch University and Innovus that specialises in energy efficiency, energy data modelling, implementation of energy retrofitting projects and business networking.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) recently contracted GreenX to initially pilot internet of things energy management and lighting efficiency retrofits at 25 no-fee schools, but on Friday the company announced more schools will be added.

“We have already identified 100 no-fee schools in the Western Cape that will benefit from our energy interventions,” says Dr Jason Samuels, who leads GreenX.

“We hope that after successfully completing the work on the first 25 schools, the WCED will extend our project to include the rest of the 75 schools. We foresee that a school will be able to save anything between 20-40% on their energy bills, which could mean an average saving of around R3 000 per school per month and a total of R36 000 per year.”

On Friday, one of the beneficiary schools, Cloetesville Primary School, received a 7.5kW solar panel (photo voltaic) system, which will generate approximately 14MWh (14 000 units) of electricity per year.

With this, GreenX says the school will be negating almost 13 tonnes of CO2 annually and saving R20 000 per year while selling electricity back to the grid.

“We managed to reduce the school’s energy bills with anything from 21%, to as much as 39%,” says professor Thinus Booysen, from the department of electrical and electronic engineering.

Booysen is a mentor to Dr Samuel and is involved in GreenX, together with another academic from Stellenbosch University, professor Saartjie Grobbelaar, from the department of industrial engineering.

Salie Abrahams, deputy-director general: WCED, who attended the handover ceremony at Cloetesville Primary, commented: “Today is a fantastic day. Here we see first-hand how schools can take on a broader role in communities, providing services that can help rejuvenate them.

“With this creative project, we see how schools can both help to address the national energy crisis and improve the resilience and general wellbeing of the local community of Cloetesville. We now need to find a way to develop a scalable model where we can roll this out to more schools so that more communities can benefit from this innovation.

“We see moving this project forward as a priority and look forward to building the partnerships to create the platform needed to get as many schools as possible on board. This project has the full support of the WCED going forward.”

Cloetesville Primary headmaster Rodger Cupido commented: "We are excited to be part of this and very thankful to all the partners involved. It is fantastic to have all these people here who are making a difference, and we hope to build on this relationship in future on our green journey as the Green School.”