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Vodacom to complete Midrand campus solar PV installation by year-end

Vodacom to complete Midrand campus solar PV installation by year-end

28th September 2023

     

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From Creamer Media in Johannesburg, this is the Real Economy Report.

African connectivity, digital and financial services company, Vodacom is on track to finalise the transformation of its Midrand campus, in Gauteng, into a 10.5 gigawatt-hours-a-year grid-based solar photovoltaic plant by December, about five months ahead of schedule. Tracy Hancock tells us more.

Tracy Hancock:

After installing more than 11 000 solar photovoltaic (or PV) panels over 30 000 square meters of rooftops and carports at its Midrand campus, Vodacom South Africa will have implemented the largest on-site solar power generation system in Vodacom Group.

But before undertaking the project at its headquarters in Gauteng, which should be finalised by year-end, Vodacom South Africa embarked on an extensive energy efficiency programme.

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“We had a period of around about eight years where we implemented very deliberate projects within the energy efficiency realm that resulted in us actually reducing our energy consumption by 54%. And I think, before you actually produce green power, or take power from any source, it's to make sure you get as efficient as you possibly can.”

Tracy Hancock:

The Midrand campus is energy-hungry, with a multitude of services on site. The 6.2 megawatt peak solar project will not only reduce demand on the national grid by more than 25% during peak generation periods but will also allow for an almost 11 000-ton reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions annually

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“The energy-hungriness of this campus does not come from the commercial offices component, it comes from all the other sources like the warehouse, the office and the data centres itself. The split between the energy [please remove repetition] consumed on site is 70/30, with 70% of it going to all other facilities except for the commercial or the office facility. So, a lot of what we have incorporated in terms of the actual design is pushed to the energy-hungry sections of the actual facility itself.”

Tracy Hancock:

The Midrand project, which is also the first on-site power purchase agreement (or PPA) in the Vodafone Group, has progressed ahead of schedule despite logistical challenges.

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“At the time that we started the actual project, you know, PPAs in the form that we currently have it or even independent power providers, were not really interested or able to cater for the smaller projects that we currently have on the campus itself. So, I think for me, that was one of the biggest lessons learned in terms of how to forge that partnership and how to approach it. A lot of the partners or IPPs generally wanted to register large projects, with Eskom and its generally done at scale.”

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“Another key challenge, which we really thought would push our timelines out was, we had started the project as Eskom had launched Stage 4,5,6 of loadshedding, which meant everybody that we knew was looking for solar panels, inverters, equipment, all of those types of things. So that became an incredible challenge for us to actually ensure that based on the pace of the project, that the supply of all our equipment was coming in at the time. When you think about procuring something just short of 12 000 solar panels to a specific site that needed to come on time for those phases to have it installed, it in itself is quite a complex process.”

Tracy Hancock:

Nonetheless, the three-phase project started in November last year has piqued a lot of interest in the implementation of similar projects across the Vodafone group.

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“I think the fact that we've been, you know, commissioning it as the phases have been completed, and people are seeing the benefit of it has been good for us. It's prompted a number of other projects. So definitely feasibility studies being done or completed on all our own buildings. from a workplace perspective. So we have targeted installations on some of our office buildings as well as that of our data centres. So quite excited to see how that, you know, all comes together.”

Tracy Hancock:

Vodacom is also discussing the introduction of green leases and practices with the property owners of its leased buildings, which further promotes the Planet pillar of its corporate strategy.

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“Once we achieve the greening of our power, we create an education and, an awareness around the importance of energy efficiency, conservation, security, and just general day-to-day practices in terms of what everybody can do towards reducing our impact to the carbon footprint, to climate change per se.as well as, [[TH3] ], building a culture that does not have the environment as an add on, but rather, that is integrated within our DNA as we move forward.”

Tracy Hancock:

Vodacom’s next move is to introduce battery energy storage at its Midrand campus to enable the supply of power during loadshedding and power failures and it will undertake a feasibility study to identify the best possible battery technology available.

Vodacom group executive for property and facilities Shobana Singh:

“This is just the start of our actual journey to create clean and renewable power on, you know, not only on this campus, but it will be implemented across our footprint, not only in South Africa.”

Sashnee Moodley:

That’s Creamer Media’s Real Economy Report. Join us again next week for more news and insight into South Africa’s real economy.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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