In its first phase, the 3 000-panelled solar plant – which is located just kilometres from the George Airport – will supply around 41% of the airport’s current electricity demand.
Known for its cold, wet and often overcast weather, George is the ideal pilot site for the project because if it works successfully in this city, this would strengthen the case for building other solar plants around several other airports across the country, Acsa Group Executive Andre Vermeulen said.
The plant cost around R16 million to build and is expected to deliver a 13,8% return on investment and contribute to a 33% saving in monthly electricity costs, Vermeulen said.
“Part of our strategic objective is to minimise our environmental impact. There are a number of key drivers Acsa needs to manage to reach this objective and these include reducing energy consumption, water consumption, percentage of waste recycled, noise levels and energy-efficient materials usage among others,” said Acsa Chairman Skhumbuzo Macozoma.
Delivering the keynote address at the official launch on Friday, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters commended Acsa for its contribution to energy saving and alleviating pressure on the country’s water supply.
“This plant generated 47MW of power within its first month of operation and it is estimated that it will save 1,2-million litres of water a year. Acsa is contributing to the country’s energy situation and water challenges, which is commendable, especially because South Africa is grappling with one of the worst droughts in decades,” said Peters.
Acsa is also working towards rolling out the project at the Kimberly and Upington airports as well as pursuing a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth to increase the efficiency of the project by establishing a test lab at the plant site that university students could utilise.
Vermeulen said maintenance of the George plant, which is the first airport in the country to operate on solar power, would cost around R200 000 per year.
Since coming online in September last year, the solar plant has generated an average of 250KW per month, and forms a central part of Acsa’s commitment to introducing an energy mix across all of its airports to achieve its Vision 2025 strategy, which involves achieving a Green Building Council of SA 6 star rating.
Beyond the operational savings and environmentally friendly considerations, the George solar power plant project created 12 345 jobs during the construction period, which began in March last year, while 16 people have been formally employed.
Vermeulen added that Acsa would be investigating ways to store the electricity generated by solar radiation during off-peak times and redistribute it back into the system.