Written by Quintin Coetzee
Now that we’ve entered springtime in South Africa, the weather is gradually getting warmer, and many of us are preparing for being back at the beach during summer at the end of the year. In a region like SA, we’re lucky enough to get lots of sunshine not only in summer, but year-round. This creates the perfect opportunity to be more sustainable, and make use of solar power. And that’s exactly what we’ve done at our head office in Cape Town.
Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.
Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s.
As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and utility-scale solar power stations with hundreds of megawatts are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun.
The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of the worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity.
Our head office in Cape Town has, since early 2014, featured 25 photovoltaic panels on its roof, positioned to harness the most sunlight possible during daylight hours. These panels are connected to a smart charge controller, and the power is distributed throughout our building. Electricity usage can be monitored via a mobile app, which provides us with usage history, so that we can track our conservation efforts.
In addition to this, we also have battery units that keep the solar system running. In the event of a power outage, the batteries will keep our essential systems running. To date, we have converted 40.7 MWh of solar energy into usable electricity. All of this is made possible by a SolarEdge system. To read more about them, click here.
The importance of renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services.
Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits.
In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that “the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global.
We encourage other businesses to implement sustainable solutions to their power systems, over time saving both money and the environment.
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