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Green taxi rank adds to energy mix

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The Western Cape green taxi rank will pay for itself in six to 10 years.
The Western Cape green taxi rank will pay for itself in six to 10 years.

The City of Cape Town's recent launch of a R25 million solar-powered taxi rank has added to SA's diversifying energy mix as energy utility Eskom battles to keep the lights on.

Cape Town's Wallacedene taxi rank's installation, dubbed the 'first green transport facility' in SA, has a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panel system for its electricity generation, while its 24 large batteries store reserve power. Brett Herron, a member of the city's mayoral committee, says the cost of this solar installation will be recovered within six to 10 years thanks to monthly energy savings.

The University of Cape Town's professor Anton Eberhard - an energy expert on the National Planning Commission - notes as prices of solar PV falls, and that of coal and nuclear power increases, SA will see "increased grid-connected renewable energy investments".

"Also, roof-top PV applications will become financially attractive to households, businesses and industries, provided net-metering is permitted whereby consumers can sell surplus electricity to the grid during the day and draw from the grid at night."

Eberhard says government's Independent Power Programme attracted R120 billion of investment in 3 922MW of grid-connected renewable energy over the past three years, including 1 484MW of solar PV. Meanwhile, says Eberhard, prices have dropped 68% over this period.

Growing investment

Last month, Eskom announced a EUR75 million (R1.1 billion) finance contract deal with lending institution the European Investment Bank (EIB) to fund a 100MW Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant close to Upington in the Northern Cape.

2014 green energy developments

* Government and energy company Globeleq unveiled a R1.5 billion solar power plant near Kimberley.
* President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address highlights continued collaboration with independent power producers.
* Cape Town-based Black River Office Park expanded its solar power project to start feeding into the city's grid.
* Eskom signs R1.1 billion deal to fund a 100MW Concentrating Solar Power plant close to Upington in the Northern Cape.

According to the utility, CSP uses a number of innovative technologies to concentrate the sun's energy through large mirrors and uses concentrated thermal energy to produce steam to drive a conventional steam turbine for electricity generation.

The technology is similar to conventional power plants in that steam is used to power a turbine and generator, but the fossil fuel combustion is replaced with free, non-polluting solar energy.

In May, the Department of Science and Technology announced Eskom had signed a 20-year deal with renewable energy company Globeleq, following the launch of Droogfontein Solar Power plant near Kimberley. The facility aims to power more than 19 000 homes a year.

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