While South African taxpayers cried foul at its government for failing to explore all options on e-tolling, Zimbabwe raced ahead to lead the world with the first installation of 22 solar-powered tollgates during 2013. This solar power initiative falls within the country’s plan to upgrade its road transport services as part of an overall infrastructure improvement plan.

Says Gregor Küpper, managing director of SolarWorld Africa, the suppliers of the solar tollgate systems, “A SolarWorld Africa distributor was granted the contract in 2013 to install 750 kWp of solar power at the 22 new toll-gates in this electricity-strapped country which has one of the highest road densities in Africa.”

Each rooftop installation at each toll-gate is powered with 34 kWp systems, inverter technology, one 3,200 Ah battery bank and a 50 kVA back-up generator.

“Each remotely located site takes seven days to install. They are monitored with monitoring technology via the GSM network and are recorded as the first solar-powered toll-gates in the world.”

Zimbabwe takes its domestic electricity generation from coal, hydropower and thermal power plants which supply approximately 1.2 GW of electricity to the country that requires 2.2 GW. Additional power is imported from Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Zambia. Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has seen drastic load shedding, which on some days has meant outages of up to 10 hours.

“We believe that the use of solar power systems could help alleviate the instability that has affected people’s quality of life, business and industrial development. An efficient and viable power sector will assist economic stability and growth, given its linkages with the rest of the economy and within the SADC community – which will have a direct bearing on national income.”