In South Africa, Durban’s municipal government has plans to tender for a ZAR10 million solar panel project as part of a move to reduce the city’s reliance on state utility Eskom.

eThekwini municipality has confirmed it will procure enough solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to cover nine municipal rooftops and generate 500kw of power to provide “an opportunity for learning about photovoltaic installations”, spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said to IOL news.

Moses Mabhida Stadium, the metro police headquarters and uShaka Marine World will be among the sites fitted with solar PV panels as part of the tender due to be advertised next year.

Cost-effective project

Chris Haw, spokesman of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association, said the PV project would be ideal for municipal buildings, landlords and residences that consume a lot of electricity during the day. Haw said the average home used 3 to 5 kilowatts of energy a day.

Mr Haw said: “If you look at it in that sense then their (eThekwini municipality) plan to generate around 500 kilowatts of energy is quite a lot and would be quite cost-effective.

“But we need a mix of solutions to provide us with energy at night and during the peak times. Until storage technology becomes financially viable it will only play a supplementary role,” he said.

Cutting residential consumption

Ms Mthethwa said a secondary aim of the project is to reduce the carbon emissions of eThekwini Municipality and cut electricity purchases from Eskom.

Durban residents will be encouraged to switch to solar energy, Mthethwa said adding that the city was developing an online solar map which will allow users to click on their rooftop to gauge how much solar is possible per household.

“Solar and other energy such as wind are part of the city’s broader plans to use cleaner and renewable energy. The climate change strategy for the city is currently being finalised. We anticipate that in the future rooftop solar PV will make up a large portion of this renewable energy mix.”

A long-term plan is to allow homes and businesses that are producing their own energy to sell their excess energy to the municipality by feeding it back into the electricity grid.

While eThekwini municipality was the first to enact a bi-directional tariff that allows energy producers to feed into the grid, the project was not yet off the ground.