Sparks Electrical News

International tourist destination and world heritage site Robben Island has a R25 million solar-powered mini-grid. The solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant has the capacity to generate 666.4-kilowatt peak of clean energy.

The island currently uses a diesel generating system. “It is estimated that the system will reduce the use of diesel generators by almost 45%, which means the annual diesel usage will drop from around 619 000 litres to 344 000 litres, saving the Island about 275 000 litres of diesel per annum. What we are therefore looking at is that this project will save the fiscal an estimated amount of almost R5 million per annum, which means this project will pay for itself within five years,” Tokozile Xasa, Minister of Tourism, said at the unveiling of the plant.

Robben island goes green with solar microgrid

The plant comprises a solar PV farm, a lithium-ion battery storage facility and smart controllers to ensure a seamless electricity supply. The integrated system carries the entire daytime electricity load and prioritises solar PV energy generation, which is supported by an 828-kilowatt-hour battery storage – enabling the use of solar energy on cloudy days and at night. The system will allow Robben Island to run on solar power for at least nine months of the year.

The island uses almost two-million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The power is used for residential purposes, the harbour and office, as well as a desalination plant.

Robben Island is one of eight government-owned attractions to be fitted with solar PV energy generating systems as a pilot project in the Green Tourism Incentive Programme (GTIP). The programme was developed in collaboration with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to drive the implementation of responsible tourism practices.

Other sites earmarked for the programme include the Hantam in the Karoo Desert, Free State National Botanical Gardens, the Skukuza and Lower Sabie rest camps and the Tshokwane and Nkuhlu picnic sites in the Kruger National Park.

Robben Island’s solar PV farm consists of 1960 mono-crystalline modules with a total of 666.4 kW power supply. The battery bank, consisting of 2420 lithium-ion battery cells, is able to store 837 kWh and output a maximum of 500 kVA. Diesel generators are used when no solar or battery storage is available. Multiple controllers between these power production elements balance the power supply and create a smart microgrid, ensuring a seamless supply of power.

According to Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy, the EPC contractor appointed by the Department of Tourism to design the microgrid, this is the largest combined solar and lithium-ion storage microgrid system in South Africa. “The island’s microgrid is also a very good example of how non-electrically connected Africa will be powered in the next 20 years,” he adds.

“This project is the first step in a longer term initiative of greening the island and discussions are already under way with the management of Robben Island Museum on the implementation of a range of additional energy efficiency projects,” Minister Xasa said.

Image/video credit: https://www.solafuture.co.za/news/robben-island-solar-pv-and-battery-storage-microgrid/

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