Port Elizabeth sun panel tracking supplier sets bar

PiA Solar first in Southern Hemisphere to be awarded international design standard certification


Port Elizabeth-based company PiA Solar has become the first solar tracker manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere to qualify for a prestigious international design standard, showing just what the Bay is made of.
PiA Solar – which is among the top 15 suppliers of solar tracking systems in the world – was officially handed the international electrotechnical commission (IEC) design standard 62817 certification on Monday.
The award, according to PiA Solar founder and managing director Colin Muller, was likely to open up increased opportunities for the export of the technology, both domestically and globally.
The IEC is an international standards organisation that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as “electrotechnology”.
IEC standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, solar energy, nanotechnology and marine energy. A solar tracker is a device that moves the photovoltaics modules in such a way that they continuously face the sun.
Muller said the demand for solar trackers for utility-scale and large-scale solar power plants was growing exponentially because the trackers increase the yield from the solar farms by up to 25% – depending on location.
“More importantly, the plant starts generating maximum power earlier in the morning, and then later into the afternoon until the last rays of the sun have disappeared.
“With static installations there is peak power only at midday,” he said.
The trackers are also being used increasingly by business.
“Having power from early until late is important for people running businesses because they have a more stable power supply from the time people arrive to when they leave.
“For farmers, it means they can start running their pumps earlier and for longer.
“They do not have to wait for the sun,” Muller said.
To qualify for the certification, PiA Solar had to build its own climate test chamber in Port Elizabeth.
Certification was undertaken by the TUV Rheinland SA office in Port Elizabeth in partnership with the company’s German headquarters.
TUV Rheinland Eastern Cape and Western Cape regional manager Kobie Coertze said: “This certification process has opened the doors for the international certification of trackers in South Africa.”
With the systems in place, it would fast-track the certification of the next generation of trackers, Coertze said.
The latest range of PiA Solar trackers is being tested at the company’s development and test facility in Sardinia Bay.
PiA Solar’s trackers would be installed in five of the new solar farms licensed in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) Round Four tender, Muller said.
It was short-listed for a further three solar farms.
“Potentially we will have eight of the 12 REIPP Round Four projects.
“Combined with the installations already done by PiA Solar in South Africa and in the rest of Africa, the new round will mean that we will pass the gigawatt milestone – making us a significant international supplier of utility-scale solar mounting equipment,” Muller said.

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