Adding solar to energy mix can fix SA’s power cuts

- By Viren Sookhun ■ Sookhun is managing director at Oxyon

SA’s power crisis, coupled with the case for the transition to renewable energy, is clear. The climate makes it ideal for solar, with among the highest average hours of sunshine per year in the world. Adding solar capacity to our energy mix is a matter of priority.

However, there is finite open land available and solar farms make this unusable for any other purpose. We need to come up with innovative solutions to maximise solar generation, and this requires specialise­d skills, which is where a Temporary Employment Services (TES) provider is perfectly positioned to assist.

The space problem

Numerous solar farms and a lot of capacity have been installed, predominan­tly in the Northern Cape. Last month, Eskom signed a land lease agreement with four independen­t power producers (IPPs). These projects are expected to be up and running within the next 36 months.

However, solar is getting a lower allocation than wind, partly because of the sheer amount of real estate needed for a largegener­ation solar farm. This land will be tied up for the life of the farm, which is up to 25 years.

Thinking higher

The reality is we do not have sufficient open land to power our electricit­y needs through solar farms. If we take solar generation to , for example, commercial and residentia­l rooftops, there is a massive amount of real estate we can leverage.

In addition, if we cover the large open parking lots at malls, office parks and city centres with awnings, this can also be used for installing solar panels. From a residentia­l perspectiv­e, if we make solar more affordable through new financing models, tax incentives and rebates, more homes will be able to produce their own power and feed excess back into the grid.

Innovation is vital

Aside from the traditiona­l purchase arrangemen­t for residentia­l solar, IPPs or renewables companies could do the installati­on, lease the space from the homeowner in return for a capped amount of electricit­y and wheel the balance back to Eskom.

We could even install wind generation on top of the solar farms on rooftops, without increasing the need for more land. A software applicatio­n can be developed where property owners list their rooftops or land for lease.

Right mix of flexibilit­y, skills

Instead of leasing land and taking up space, we can make use of real estate already being used for other purposes. This also opens up solar generation to the small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) market to assist IPPs with installati­ons and maintenanc­e. In turn, this creates employment opportunit­ies, but as they are project based, permanent employment is not the answer.

A TES provider can deliver the flexible workforce to meet fluctuatin­g demand and scale up for new projects, while ensuring that all staff have the relevant skills and experience for the job.

A view to the future

Using up all of our free land for solar farms is not a viable longterm answer. Changing the way we approach power now will help to mitigate our energy crisis, move us forward in terms of reducing carbon emissions, and create employment, all of which are essential for a sustainabl­e future.

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