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Gauteng govt rolls out 6.3 MWh of solar power at 27 healthcare facilities

23rd April 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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The Gauteng provincial government (GPG) has installed and commissioned a combined equivalent of six independent microgrid power plants through the installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage at 27 prioritised health institutions across the province.

The total combined capacity of these solar installations amounts to 6.3 MWh, while the combined battery storage component adds up to a total of 15.6 MWh. These have been installed at 11 public hospitals, nine primary healthcare clinics, and eight community healthcare centres throughout the province. A twenty-eighth facility will be integrated next month.

The project, which is part of the GPG’s Emergency Energy Response Programme, received funding of R329-million from National Treasury during the third quarter of the 2023/24 financial year, which was earmarked to implement the project at healthcare facilities across the five provincial development corridors.

The installation and commissioning of the solar energy solutions took eight weeks to complete.

Gauteng Human Settlements and Infrastructure Development MEC Lebogang Maile noted during a briefing, in Johannesburg, on April 23, that the motivation for prioritising healthcare facilities was owing to the life-threatening consequences of electricity supply interruptions at healthcare facilities.

“This prioritisation approach has considered the need for uninterrupted power supply for the multitude of electromechanical machinery that supports the delivery of health services at clinics, community health centres and hospitals, including life support and antenatal care units, that are otherwise supported through backup generators,” he explained.

Maile added that the unavailability of lighting, heating, cooling, sanitation and communication systems severely limited the ability of hospitals to provide life-saving care. In addition, healthcare workers were unable to provide patients with basic diagnostic services at clinics.

The solar PV and battery project was preceded by project preparation and feasibility studies of each site, with structural engineering design work and electrical design work needing to be completed before installation could begin.

The implementation was carried out at only 27 out of 54 healthcare facilities earmarked for solar power installations, owing to budget restrictions. However, Maile told Engineering News that installations at the rest of the facilities would be completed in a similar timeframe, as soon as funding for them could be confirmed.

He said an application for the rest of the funding would be submitted to Treasury soon to ensure solar solutions at remaining facilities were delivered during the medium-term expenditure framework, which covered three financial years from 2024/25 to 2026/27.

Outside of the life-saving benefits of limiting loadshedding's impact on healthcare facilities and providing greater energy security, Maile said there would also be a significant reduction in electricity bills, which would enable cost savings because solar power would be the primary energy generated from the renewable-energy source. These cost savings would then be ploughed back into maintenance of the system and other upgrades to the facilities.

The components that were installed are covered by a warranty, wherein the suppliers of the equipment will ensure that the quality is up to standard and delivers the necessary longevity. The installations each include operational and maintenance services from the contractors for a period of 36 months.

Thereafter, the GPG will maintain the equipment using internal resources.

Maile said that the implementation of the project helped to encourage economic activity and employment opportunities in the province through the supply of materials and construction works.

He said the rollout of the solar project created 237 direct jobs, 187 indirect jobs, and 50 Expanded Public Works Programme jobs, including solar green card beneficiaries through jobs portal Nasi iSpani.

Workers from a variety of different skill sets worked on the projects, ranging from engineers to electricians, construction workers, installers and others.

“We are happy that we were able to do this in two months, and on budget, and there were no deviations or scandals. It's a big thing that a provincial government with limited resources is able to intervene and make sure that there is an uninterrupted power supply, that there is reliability, that the caregivers will be able to give care to the people that need it,” Maile said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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