Carbon-cutting nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Project 90x2030 has spent the past eight months setting up high- impact renewable-energy demonstration sites at various locations in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Western Cape.
With R6-million in funding from the German Ministry of Cooperation, Project 90x2030 set out selecting the nonprofit sites that would allow the public to engage with renewable technologies.
Sites chosen in Gauteng were the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, in Newtown, the Johannes- burg Zoo and the Pretoria Zoo. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban Botanical Gardens, the Marianhill community, Reichenau Mission station and the Wildlife Society of South Africa’s (Wessa’s) Umgeni Valley site were selected for demonstration projects.
The Tshulu-HaMakuya demonstration site is found in Limpopo, and Western Cape projects include the Two-Oceans Aquarium, three Catholic welfare and development (CWD) sites, the Goedgedacht farm, and the Mthimkhulu village centre.
“The demonstration sites project enables us to physically showcase how clean energy use and energy efficiency can be used in day-to-day life without negatively impacting on productivity and wellbeing. It provides the opportunity to test the use of different renewable-energy technologies and a wide range of education opportunities on energy efficiency,” says the NGO.
Sustainable energy engineering firm Grey Green was responsible for the design and installation of the projects, and MD Gary Fahy tells Engineering News that the team was careful to choose sites where a local project champion would take ownership and assist with maintenance.
Too often, systems are placed in a community and fall into disrepair; thus, organisations that already have environmental programmes in place were chosen, and commitments were made on operation and maintenance.
The sites have also signed a memorandum of understanding with Project 90x2030, which states that they are the owners of the systems and are responsible for them. Grey Green has signed an agreement with Project 90x2030 to provide support and maintenance for a period of one year at every site.
The project team explains that the National Zoo, in Pretoria, has been supplied with two electric golf carts, fitted with solar panel roofs, and a 3.75 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system to top up the charge when needed. The surplus energy from the solar array is fed into the zoo’s mains electricity supply to offset coal-generated electricity requirements.
The Johannesburg Zoo has the country’s first ‘zoo-poo’ biogas installation and a 3.75 kW solar PV system powers the visitors centre. The cheetah enclosure’s electric fence has also been converted to a solar-powered system.
At the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, an example of an ‘off-grid’ solar system supplies power to light the visitors area.
The Durban Botanical Gardens have been equipped with two 2.1 kW solar panel arrays mounted to tracking systems, which will power the visitors centre.
Reichenau Mission station has been supported with a grant of R100 000 to complete work on the installation of a 25 kW hydroelectric system to provide energy to the local community.
In the Marianhill area, 50 poor households have been fitted with solar lighting kits, bringing electrical light into homes that previously relied on more dangerous fossil fuels for lighting.
The Marianhill site is the exception to the operation and maintenance agreements, and here, because of the rural location, local repre- sentatives have been identified and trained and are able to regularly visit the sites and provide the necessary maintenance and servicing.
Grey Green offers ongoing support to these representatives, providing spares and arranging the logistics of their site visits, at no cost to the homeowners as the spare parts have been paid for by Project90x2030.
Homeowners have been supplied with detailed but simple user manuals, with contact details to be able to contact the NGO, or the representatives, in the event of a system needing servicing.
Wessa’s Umgeni Valley site has also been provided with a grant of R100 000 to complete a range of renewable-energy and energy efficiency installations.
At the Tshulu Trust, in Limpopo, the computer room is now powered by a 4 kW solar PV system. It provides power for all 20 computers as well as lighting, enabling the local community to use the facility 12 hours a day.
In the Western Cape, the Goedgedact farm already hosts 11 other climate-change-related projects. The Project 90x2030 7.5 kW solar PV system now provides enough electricity to supply all the farm office’s energy needs.
At the aquarium, a 2 kW solar PV installation and a 1 kW wind turbine now supplement the energy supply requirements of the busy admini- stration building.
Also in the Western Cape, at the Mthimkhulu Village centre, a biogas digester, a water- and energy-efficient ablution block and solar panels make up a closed loop of energy supply around the cooking school in Kleinmond.
Three social welfare centres established by a CWD NGO in Bonne Esperance, Masphumelele and Tafelsig have also been provided with solar water heating, cooking and lighting installations. These interventions will significantly change the lives of residents.
When commenting on the challenges involving the deployment of projects of this nature, Fahy notes that clearer guidelines and more access to information regarding the legislation and technicalities of small-scale embedded renewable-energy power generators would simplify matters.
A ‘one stop shop’ that provided information on the legal and technical requirements necessary to carry out the installation of such systems would be beneficial.
Project 90x2030’s vision is to cut carbon significantly by 2030, and it does this by addressing life-style changes in the areas of energy, transport, water, waste and water use. The organisa- tion is involved in a number of actions to promote sustainability.