Advancements in concentrated solar power technology allow the sun’s energy to be stored and pumped into the grid during South Africa’s early morning and evening peak demand times – or even at night.
And with 50 percent more sunshine than Spain, it is a no-brainer for South Africa to go down a solar energy path.
These were some of the key points made by Wikus van Niekerk, a professor in renewable energy technology at Stellenbosch University, when he spoke at the Southern African Solar Energy Conference in Stellenbosch on Monday.
He said it was important to produce electricity when it was needed during the two daily peaks. Photovoltaic (PV) solar power generated electricity in the middle of the day.
“The big advantage of concentrated solar power over PV is that it can store energy and generate electricity when it is needed. It can even generate electricity at night.
“There is a solar plant in Spain that generates electricity 24 hours a day. The energy is stored in molten salt,” Van Niekerk said.
“The other key issue is that concentrated solar power now uses dry air cooling, so it uses very little water. Stellenbosch University are world leaders in dry air cooling, which makes concentrated solar even more effective for South Africa.”
Regarding photovoltaic generated electricity, Van Niekerk said the cost had come down globally by half in the last decade.
“Because of this cost reduction there has been a swing away from concentrated solar to PV, especially in the US, but here, concentrated solar makes sense in the medium to long term, and that is where we should be putting our effort in,” Van Niekerk said.
He said there was a great need for a feed-in tariff to stimulate electricity generation by homeowners using PV panels on their rooftops.
The country needed a system of net metering which would allow homeowners to sell the electricity that was generated back to the municipality, he added.
One of the barriers to getting this system going was that municipalities made a lot of money from selling electricity to homeowners, and they therefore stood to lose money through a net metering system.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said the province planned to have 10 percent renewable energy generation by 2014. The plan was to make the Western Cape, very dependent on fossil fuel, the green economic hub in South Africa.
Source: Daily News