The eThekwini municipality has unveiled its first set of solar- powered traffic lights.
The pilot project, funded by State-owned power utility Eskom, uses CIS solar modules to power traffic lights at four intersections close to the city’s International Conven- tion Centre. The pilot is being implemented by South African company ZRW Mechanika and its international partner, Saint Gobain Solar.
The project uses 16 panels on each system, with each panel having a capacity of 110 W, backed up by batteries which can last over 48 hours when there is no sunlight. The project was conceptualised by Eskom in the lead-up to the United Nations Frame- work Convention on Climate Change seventeenth Conference of the Parties – held in Durban in late November and early December 2011 – to show- case renewable-energy projects being implemented in the country. However, the project did not materialise in time for the conference.
“We initially wanted to part- ner with the municipality to show our support for the conference, but also showcase our own commitment to piloting and supporting renewable- energy solutions,” explains Eskom strategy and planning manager Paulene Pirthi.
The project gives the city’s eThekwini Traffic Authority (ETA) an opportunity to understand the feasibility of installing solar traffic lights and other sustainable-energy measures in the city.
“We have already success- fully piloted energy-efficient measures in our streetlights and our traffic lights, so this project will be an addition to the experience we already have in sustainable traffic management,” explains ETA head Thami Mnyati.
The city is currently con- templating a holistic sustain- able transport plan and sus- tainable energy will form an important part this plan. “Our main aim is to keep the traffic flowing efficiently in Durban but, if we can do it in a more sustainable way, we would be extremely happy about that,” says Mnyati.
The project was approved by the city council six months after it was first tabled. The main issues city officials had to plan for were the theft of components parts, how the system would fit into the surrounding aesthetics, and maintenance. To prevent theft, the power control system, which includes the batteries, is encased in a protective bunker.
The yearly maintenance cost of the system is estimated at R15 000. The estimated yearly savings amount to nearly R10 000, but this is set to increase as electricity prices are set to increase each year.