Sky’s the limit for renewable energy boffins

Lee-Anne Butler

A PORT Elizabeth company which offers renewable energy solutions has just completed one of the largest rooftop solar power projects ever in the country – installed on the seventh-floor roof of the Absa head office building in Johannesburg.

According to Rhino Energy’s financial director, Andrew Barton, more than 1350 photovoltaic panels with an installed capacity of more than 400kW was placed on the banking giant’s rooftop. It will generate about 700000 kW/hours a year.

The panels were installed in just a few weeks, to exacting standards, but he could not disclose the installation cost, Barton said.

“Just like a growing number of businesses, Absa wished to mitigate their carbon footprint and reliance on the national energy supplier,” Barton said.

Dr Stuart Fredman, managing director of Rhino Energy, who has a PhD in solar engineering, along with fellow director Craig Brehany were responsible for the modelling, design, technology procurement, installation and commissioning.

“The modelling aspect is quite interesting, as it includes using Nasa satellite data for sun radiation levels specific to the location, optimal array installation angle and orientation towards the sun – with the quality of panels inherently also influencing the resultant output.”

Barton said Rhino Energy, which started in Port Elizabeth in 2010, had also completed solar power work for a number of new motor dealerships in Gauteng, including a new Kia dealership.

The company, which has a national footprint, had noticed an overall increase in companies investing to become more environmentally conscious.

“While some areas may be slower than others, overall there is a marked increase. Some of it is driven by necessity and costs.

“A growing number of homeowners are also wishing to become energy self-reliant, as are property developers who need alternative sources of energy. There are quite a lot of exciting projects under discussion with other parties and, hopefully, before too long we will be able to make these public.”

Jon Couret, Absa and Barclays regional Africa head of corporate real estate services, said the installation of the panels was in line with the company’s commitment to taking care of the environment.

“We seek to actively manage the social and environmental impacts of what we do. Therefore, we will be responsible and environmentally aware.”

Couret said Rhino Energy was selected as it met the specifications of the project and had the technical capability to support the delivery and implementation of the programme.

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