Electricity, Environment, Eskom, Town News|

First solar panels installed on municipal properties

6 April 2022
Statement by Stellenbosch Executive Mayor Adv. Gesie van Deventer

Today, we take another step in our promise to making Stellenbosch load-shedding free. I am thrilled to join our engineers and energy service providers to install one of our first sets of solar panels on municipal property today.

South Africa’s energy crisis is an economic crisis, and it has become imperative for municipalities to start investing in alternate energy sources. The facts are clear. Solar power is a clean and affordable source of electricity that can be used to generate at the scale required by large economies, while emitting insignificant amounts of carbon. It is sad that we have come to accept load-shedding as a fact of life in South Africa, as we’ve been living with rolling blackouts for 15 years.

Solar Panels, (Photovoltaic (PV) panels), are being installed at several key municipal properties. As part of our plans of reducing our reliance on Eskom and co-generating electricity in a sustainable manner, the municipality has appointed a service provider to install solar panels at several municipal properties including the Van Der Stel Sport Grounds, Stellenbosch Town Hall, administrative buildings, municipal depot and the Traffic Department. Work should be concluded by the end of June 2022, after which we will start with the next phase.

These panels will produce roughly 400KW of electricity per day and although this is only a small drop in the vast ocean that is Eskom’s unreliable energy supply, it is a massive step in the right direction for our town.

In Stellenbosch, we say, no longer! Let me be clear, with this process we cannot yet break away from Eskom completely, but at least it’s a first step in the process to end load shedding. We can become a more resilient municipality that augments our electricity supply to keep our lights on when load shedding hits.

On 27 January 2021, a request to commence with an investigation into the use and generation of alternate energy supplies was adopted by the Stellenbosch Council. This put Stellenbosch Municipality on the map as one of the frontrunners in co-generating electricity to keep the lights on when Eskom fails to do so.

We signed memorandums of understanding with the Western Cape Government as well as the Stellenbosch University and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to launch a joint scientific investigation into the need, viability, and opportunities available to us by focussing on various potential sources of energy, including –

  • Solar panels (PV panels);
  • Methane gas conversion at our landfill sites;
  • Allowing the public to generate electricity and sell this to the municipality;
  • Purchasing electricity directly from registered IPPs;
  • The selling of electricity to willing buyers from outside our municipal area;

The promulgation of the Electricity Regulation Act Regulations in October 2020 further opened the door for municipalities to start investigating how they can generate their own electricity and purchase electricity from independent power producers (IPPs). It is wonderful to see that there are already around 100 private organisations and residents generating roughly 1 MW of electricity through solar panels in our municipal area.

Whilst we still have a long way to go, great progress is being made. I want to ensure all residents that any decisions taken around our approach will be open for public participation, will serve before open council, and will be made with their best interests at heart.

Finally, it is important to note that we implement this programme in stages to ensure that we can afford it and not place undue stress on our budget.

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