Zimbabwe leads with solar toll gates

24th January 2014

While South African taxpayers are crying foul over government’s failure to explore all funding options available to its e-tolling scheme on the roads of Gauteng, Zimbabwe raced ahead to lead the world with the first installation of solar-powered tollgates last year, photovoltaic products manufacturer SolarWorld Africa MD Gregor Küpper says.

The solar power initiative falls within the country’s plan to upgrade its road transport services as part of an overall infrastructure improvement plan.

Küpper notes: “A SolarWorld Africa distributor was granted a contract in 2013 to install 750 kWp of solar power at the 22 new tollgates in this electricity-strapped country, which has one of the highest road densities in Africa.”

Each rooftop installation, at each tollgate, is powered by 34 kWp systems, inverter technology, one 3 200 Ampere-hour battery bank and a 50 kVA backup generator.
“Each remotely located site took seven days to install. They are monitored with monitoring technology through the Global System for Mobile communications network and are recorded as the first solar-powered tollgates in the world,” explains Küpper.

Zimbabwe takes it domestic electricity generation from coal, hydropower and thermal power plants, which supply about 1.2 GW of electricity to the country, which requires 2.2 GW. Additional power is imported from Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has experienced drastic load-shedding, which on some days has meant outages of up to ten hours.

“We believe that the use of solar power systems could help alleviate the instability that has affected people’s quality of life, business and industrial development. An efficient and viable power sector will assist economic stability and growth, given its linkages with the rest of the economy and within the Southern African Development Community – which will have a direct bearing on the national income.”