Redefine Properties’ Black River Park in Cape Town has cemented its position as Africa’s largest integrated photovoltaic (PV) plant when it turned on Phase 3 of its PV installation earlier this month. The roof top installation at the 75 000m2 office park in Observatory is rated at 1.56 MW and is made up of about 6 000 panels spread over 9 000m2 of roof space.
By comparison, search engine giant Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, the Googleplex, generates 1.6 MW of electricity from 9 212 photovoltaic solar panels. With the new added capacity, the Black River Park now ranks amongst the world’s top 20 roof top solar installations.
The panels produce an average of 40% of all power required by the 3 500 people working at Black River Park during peak electricity demand. The power usage which is generally lower during weekends and public holidays renders the office precinct completely self-reliant from an energy perspective on certain days.
The rooftop top power plant has to date cut CO2 emissions by almost 3 000 tonnes. This is equivalent to burning almost 2-million kg of coal or 1.2 million litres of petrol. The system has produced 4 910 175 kWh to date. This is sufficient energy to power over 1 100 standard households (typical family of four) for a year or 10 households for 110 years (German Federal Environmental Agency data).
Any excess power that is generated is sold to the City of Cape Town under an independent power purchase agreement.
Ilse Badenhorst, head of utilities at Redefine Properties says, “This is a significant milestone for the industry and we have shown that with a little ingenuity and help from technology, the journey towards carbon neutral is not as onerous. Solar currently represents the cheapest and most sustainable way to generate renewable electricity. Also the technology has leapfrogged to such an extent that efficiencies are constantly improving as prices fall. As the panels use space on top of the commercial buildings, they shield it from the sun leaving it cooler, further lowering energy consumption.”
The park has retrofitted all of its common and parking areas with light emitting diodes (LEDs) as well as instituted a cost-benefit sharing agreement with tenants to further the roll out of energy saving technology. The park has also engaged with tenants to reduce their energy consumption through tenant education and active audits.
Black River Park was the first office precinct to receive a Green Star Rating for the existing building pilot tool and is home to the first building to achieve a 6-Star Green Star SA rating. All buildings in the park are Green Star SA rated.
“By adopting solar, we have been able reduce energy costs and save approximately R6 million over the past 30 months, with monthly savings between R80 000 in winter and R300 000 in summer. With the third phase now online, we expect the monthly savings to increase by at least 30%.
Aside the potential energy savings the park has been able to ratchet, its environmental policy also extends to waste management with over 75% of waste collected being diverted from landfills. All waste from the park is sorted on site into recyclable and non-recyclable materials including correct disposal of fluorescent tubing. The park also maintains ecologically friendly gardens with water sourced from boreholes on site.
“At Redefine Properties, we are already thinking of how our developments, be it in office, retail or industrial space can be agents of sustainable change through renewable energy and the internet of things (IoT),” Badenhorst concludes.