The first solar powered airport in South Africa has officially been opened making it a first of its kind in Africa.
George Airport which serves over 600,000 passengers annually, has launched a clean energy project which, during its first phase, will contribute around 40% of the airport’s electricity needs. Once completed, the airport is expected to be totally independent of the national grid.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa congratulated the Department of Transport as it is one of the key departments paving way for South Africa’s Green Economy Strategy.
Majority of the airport’s energy needs will be supplied through 200 square meters of photo-voltaic (PV) panels. PV technology generates electricity from solar radiation providing a renewable and clean energy source.
The first phase will involve generation of 750kw through this clean energy source sufficient to meet the airport’s daily needs. This is however expected to increase with plant capacity in future.
The minister said the government is on track in transitioning South Africa to a low-carbon, resource efficient and green economy. Green transport initiatives form part of government’s strategy to shift the economy towards sustainable industries with low environmental impact.
“The achievement at George Airport is the result of successful collaboration between government, entities and the private sector in developing the green economy.
The new solar-powered airport will operate on cost-effective and renewable sources to generate energy. It is also expected to simultaneously support South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets,” says Molewa.
This is in alignment with South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy whose objective is to effectively manage climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity.
South Africa has continued to invest heavily in the green economy, as highlighted recently in the 2016 Budget.
Molewa added that South Africa has made a significant headway in the uptake of renewable energy, thus making green the public transport system and promoting energy efficiency in government facilities.
Other initiatives that are underway in the transport industry include shifting freight from road to rail and introduction of electricity regenerative braking in locomotives.
In addition, 14 000 taxis are being converted to compressed natural gas, with an expected emission reduction of 23 – 27 per cent per vehicle.
Minister Molewa therefore urges other private and public sector entities to reconfigure and retrofit their existing infrastructure in support of more sustainable energy consumption patterns.