UFS launches first of nine solar charging stations
IN A ground-breaking initiative, the University of the Free State (UFS) last week launched its first solar charging station (600 watts) on the Bloemfontein campus.
The unit, which is expected to be used by students to charge their gadgets including phones and tablets, was a collaborative effort between the UFS and FCE Consulting Engineers.
It is the first of nine units to be installed on all three campuses in the next few months, with five to be installed on the Bloemfontein campus and two each on the South and QwaQwa campuses.
Anton Calitz, electrical engineer at University Estates’ department of facilities management, who played a significant role in designing the charging unit said they would be rolling our the rest of the units by fthe irst quarter of 2018.
“We will have rolled out the remaining eight charging units by April next year in this landmark project that is aimed at protecting and enhancing sustainability as well as to address the needs of the students in our campuses,” Calitz said.
Prof Nicky Morgan, acting vice-rector for institutional change, student affairs and community engagement, could not hide his excitement.
“This should be a symbol of affordable opportunities that will both save the planet and enhance financial sustainability,” Morgan said.
Nico van Rensburg, senior director of University Estates, said this renewable energy project was an innovative way of addressing student needs.
“However, students are urged not to charge other electrical appliances at the charging stations besides their phones and tablets because this may cause the charging unit to trip,” Van Rensburg said.
Recently, the university was awarded an accolade for its contribution towards sustainability.
This was in recognition of its initiative to install and operate photovoltaic (PV) and grey water systems on all three of its campuses.
Earlier this year, the university said renewable energy systems were said to be very expensive to implement initially, but in the long run they provide high economic returns.
It said with its decision to install renewable energy, the university’s facilities planning had adopted this innovative technology.
The university had chosen less capitalintensive solar power-generating options to generate electricity in various buildings and parking areas on all three UFS campuses.
“As per the UFS energy management policy, all designs incorporate efficient, renewable energy sources varying from LED lights to solar power,” Calitz said.
In December 2016, a total of 26 solar-driven LED street-light poles were installed at the recently built Legae Residence’s parking area and the perimeter security area on the South Campus.
This low-maintenance system improves security after dark and is independent of the national power supply, which is an important advantage during power outages. With no requirements for major earthworks and cable setting, operational costs are reduced.
On the Bloemfontein and QwaQwa campuses, the computer laboratories as well as the Thakaneng Bridge student centre and the projected Afromontane Research Centre will be equipped with freestanding roof solar solutions during 2017.
These systems are designed to operate independently of the power grid (Eskom).
The systems only operate during sunlight hours when the PV solar panels are heated by the sun, making them suitable for operations such as ventilation fans, water pumps and small circulation pumps for solar thermal water-heating systems.
INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY: A 600-watt solar charging station has been installed at the University of the Free State’s Bloemfontein campus.