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Diepsloot centre goes solar
30 April 2010

Diepsloot Skills Development Centre boasts a solar energy system

A solar energy system has been installed at Diepsloot Skills Development Centre, with a battery room to store electricity for two days.

SOLAR panels, which will cut the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere, have been installed at the Diepsloot Skills Development Centre in the north of the city.

The City and PPC join hands to put up a solar system at the Dieplsoot Skills Centre
The City and PPC join hands to put up a solar system at the Dieplsoot Skills Centre

The City of Johannesburg and Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) together installed a solar energy system at the centre after consulting with community leaders, who had identified the need for electricity at the centre.

After an extensive assessment of the centre, PPC donated R1,7-million for the installation of solar panels. This resulted in the installation of 75 photovoltaic panels on the centre's roof at the end of February.

All the lights were replaced with the latest and most energy efficient fluorescent tubes on the market. Each tube saves 30 watts, which equates to a saving of over 1 000 watt across all the training rooms.

The solar panel system, the largest project of this kind to be implemented by the City, produces an estimated daily energy production of 55KWh to help power lights, computers and other equipment. To overcome unpredictable weather, a battery room equipped to store two day's worth of electricity was also built.

Thembani Masilo, the City's regional director for urban management in Region A, who led the solar installation project, thanked PPC for ploughing back into the community. Masilo was speaking at a ceremony held on Thursday, 29 April to celebrate the installation of the panels.

"We are happy that the people of Diepsloot will now be able to utilise the centre for energy driven projects." Previously, only half of the centre had electricity, making it difficult for some of the projects to operate.

Income
Diepsloot Skills Development Centre is a source of income for 110 community members through projects such as soap-making and sewing. Adult basic education and training programmes are also run. The installation of the solar panels will have a significant effect on skills development in the community.

Harley Dent, the executive director of PPC, said the company was committed to empowering communities by giving them the tools to better their lives.

"These panels require little maintenance and use energy from the sun to create electricity ... The project will also assist in future development and the much-needed electricity can make, for instance, computer-based training possible," Dent said.

The battery room has equipment to store two day's worth of electricity
The battery room has equipment to store two day's worth of electricity

In addition to the solar panels, PPC also donated a gas cooker which is used in soap- and candle-making. 

Theo Covary, the director of Unlimited Energy, the company responsible for installing the solar panels, spoke about the benefits of solar energy. He explained that the centre would remain operational during power outages.

"What makes this plant so special is that is powered by the sun ... Now that the equipment is installed and paid for, the electricity will be free for about 10 years. After that, all that [will be] required will be to replace the batteries.

"Investing in renewable energy is one way we can help change future thinking and behaviour around energy generation, use and efficiency," Covary added.

Greenhouse gas
"This equipment will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while bringing lessons on climate change to life for young people."

Photovoltaic panels are usually installed on roofs facing a northerly direction to maximise their exposure to the sun. The sun's rays are converted into electricity by the panels.

Tiaan Ehlers, the City's executive director of development, planning and urban management, described the installation as a unique solution to a problem that could have hounded them in the future. "We need more of these solutions to make sure that communities can make the best of what they have," said Ehlers. "Hopefully this will inspire other communities to join in."

According to Diepsloot ward councillor Jan Ndlazi, the community is overwhelmed by the installation of the solar panel system. "This solar system is very useful and we are really grateful."

Talita Nkuna, a member of Diepsloot Skills Development Centre, thanked PPC for helping to provide solar energy. "We are happy and humbled that our leaders care about us and hope that they will continue to support us."

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Last Updated on 19 May 2010