Awareness, Safindit Daily, Technology, Topic of the Day|December 8, 2011 11:57 am

The Power of the Sun

So much power in our hands...

Everyone’s talking about energy! And it’s about time they started!!
We are truly hoping that COP17 has been an eye-opener for the South African government and public, where they have started to see the benefits and possibilities of alternative power sources.

It’s thanks to COP17 that some of the alternative power success stories have started to emerge from the woodworks and more pressure has been placed on Eskom to start towing the line.
And Eskom had better watch its’ back too. We read today that none other than Vodacom has begun supplying solar energy to a rural town in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Vodacom uses solar-powered cellphone base stations in rural areas and in the case of Emfihlweni, the surplus energy is being used to supply power to the community water pump, a local shop that will provide a cellphone charging station for people living in the area and the local high school.
This pilot project could see them and other cellphone service providers bridging the energy gap in rural areas of South Africa, where an abundance of sunshine provides the perfect catalyst for solar energy. They figure that, by over-supplying their power base-stations they can divert power to crucial points in each community – a stroke of brilliance, if you’d excuse the pun.

It's small & powerful!

Another African mobile operator, Econet Wireless, is also tapping into the rural market with solar energy. Establishing a subsidiary, Econet Solar, the company has just launched the Home Power Station – a solar generator which ca n be used for power, lighting and charging cellphones.
It has four LED lights (which use the least electricity) and a cellphone charger. A solar panel charges a battery, and needs only half a day’s worth of sun to enable the lights to illuminate for five hours a day per charge and it works on a prepaid system.

Eskom...still behind.

Meanwhile, SA’s own energy giant is slowly lumbering towards renewable energy with a pilot solar project that started in November in Vereeniging and an approved loan of US250 million (R1.9 billion) from the World Bank for their solar and wind power project in October this year.
A solar photovoltaic (PV) installation was opened at Eskom’s Lethabo power station last month, designed to supply power internally for the coal-fired power stations. According to Eskom installations like these at all their plants could reduce their carbon footprint by approximately 2845 tons per annum. The electricity generated will provide power during daylight hours for the administration buildings, security and terrace lighting, and unit lighting board and could potentially power about 1900 standard suburban houses with an assumed consumption of 200 kilowatt per month. Let’s hope these pilot projects represent a real commitment from Eskom rather than an expensive PR campaign.

Change to CFL's

Another interesting commitment to come from our government during the COP17 discussions, is regarding energy-saving lightbulbs.
Today, it was announced that the government wants every household to install energy-saving light bulbs and hope to ban the old ones by 2016.
South Africa would be the first African nation to undertake a challenge like this, directed by the government, though its’ still unclear whether the changeover will be costly to the public.
There’s a possibility they might introduce incentives like discounts on electricity and bulbs in order to encourage people to make the swap.
Incredibly, it’s estimated that South Africa would be able to electrify more than 4million homes with the electricity saved from phasing out the old light bulbs!

Excellent news! Now we just have to come up with a decent plan on how to dispose of them…

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