UFS launches first of nine so­lar charg­ing sta­tions

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Free State News - MICHAEL TLHAKUDI provinces@the­newage.co.za

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.

PIC­TURE: UFS

IN­NO­VA­TIVE TECH­NOL­OGY: A 600-watt so­lar charg­ing sta­tion has been in­stalled at the Univer­sity of the Free State’s Bloem­fontein cam­pus.

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