The R20 million system may provide power for 25 years. Picture: Brenton Geach
The R20 million system may provide power for 25 years. Picture: Brenton Geach
Some of the 7 500 square metres of solar panels which have been installed across the roofs of the Waterfront. Picture: Brenton Geach
Some of the 7 500 square metres of solar panels which have been installed across the roofs of the Waterfront. Picture: Brenton Geach

Cape Town - Solar power came to the V&A Waterfront yesterday as the popular destination switched on 7 500m2 of rooftop panels to help meet its energy needs.

The new R20 million system on the roofs of eight buildings will reduce the complex’s environmental footprint, generating enough electricity each day to power 310 average households or recharge 550 electric cars for a daily return trip to town.

The Waterfront is one of the three top consumers of water and electricity in Cape Town, and first looked into solar in 2008. However, the cost was prohibitive at that time.

The Waterfront’s executive manager of operations, Colin Devenish, said the cost had decreased in recent years, so it made sense to invest in a sustainable system that would last for 25 to 30 years.

Devenish said Stellenbosch University had conducted an audit and advised them on what was needed.

“The roofs all have different heights and angles so they advised us on what would work best taking into account issues like wind.” At present, 900 kilowatt have been connected to the grid on six roofs, including the Watershed, the Breakwater Apartment, the Clock Tower, Granger Bay, the Two Oceans Aquarium and Ports Edge.

The project is expected to be completed by February.

Alan Winde, MEC for economic opportunities, switched on the solar system, which he described as one of the largest in the country. “We now have one of South Africa’s biggest landmarks, an icon which has contributed over R200 million to the national economy, as an ambassador for smart energy practices.”

Winde said that solar-embedded generation would relieve the pressure on the grid and save taxpayers a lot of money.

“I don’t believe that nuclear will happen because that type of investment will cost trillions of rand.”

Winde said that the cost of renewables had come down and there was no reason to think that wouldn’t continue.

He said with renewables you could also spread the load by allowing the private sector and even ordinary households to contribute to the grid by putting solar panels on their roofs. “It makes more sense than putting the whole load onto the taxpayer (as would be the case with nuclear).”

Sustainable Power Solutions, SolarWorld Africa, SMA Solar Technology South Africa and Schletter South Africa installed the new system.

Axel Scholle, managing director of Sustainable Power Solutions, an engineering, design, procurement and construction contractor, said installation had been quick.

“Within three months we had 900kW installed on several roofs in spite of the challenges associated with a busy tourist attraction such as the V&A Waterfront.”

The Waterfront can expect to pay about 60 cents a kilowatt-hour over the long term.

CAPE ARGUS