Construction begins on R18m Mandela University solar farm

Green power plant expected to be fully functional by February next year

Nelson Mandela University. File photo
Nelson Mandela University. File photo
Image: Nelson Mandela University / Facebook

Construction of an R18-million solar farm at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) is well underway with fencing that would surround the mega project more than halfway assembled.

When fully functional, the green power plant is projected to provide at least 10% of NMU’s south campus’ electricity requirements, the university’s sustainability engineer, André Hefer said.

Hefer said the only other solar installation equal in magnitude in the metro is the 1 megawatt (MW) installation at Volkswagen.

The project is expected to be completed by February.

Hefer said the photovoltaic (PV) panels will go up following the construction of the basis and supporting structures in about two weeks’ time after the fencing has been completed.

“Apart from the obvious huge financial benefits to the university, the solar farm will also serve as a ‘technology park’ to academic units for technology and other research, another big advantage,” Hefer said.

He said while the solar farm was “perfectly located to signal the university’s intent to tackle sustainability head-on, there are practical reasons for its central positioning”.

“One of the most influential reasons is its proximity to the existing substation for the connection to our internal electricity grid. This would not be feasible if it were too far away. The other reason is that all environmental considerations were taken into account, and no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required for this development.”

The new plant, which is one of many on-campus sustainability initiatives, is the result of a partnership between the university and renewable energies company Tasol Solar.

Essentially, the university has given Tasol Solar the piece of land, on which it will install and maintain the plant for 10 years, selling the energy back to the university.

At the 10-year mark, the university will take over ownership of the PV power plant and will no longer have to buy the electricity produced.