Solar Power at UP underway

MARKO SVICEVIC

UP’s Hatfield Campus will soon boast an impressive array of solar panels on some of its buildings, boosting the university’s sustainability efforts to a new height. Two solar photovoltaic systems are currently being installed on the Merensky II Library and the Technical Services Building by Next Renewable Generation (NRG), an external company that specialises in new technologies and energy solutions.

Roger Thompson, Engineering Manager at NRG says that, “The systems are being installed as an innovative commercial solution called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This means that UP does not pay any capital for the installation and design of the systems. NRG funds, owns and operates the mini-power plants and sells the energy generated back to UP over a 20-year period.” Thompson adds that the PPA solution allows UP to begin saving immediately, without spending any capital upfront. Discussions surrounding the project between UP and NRG began as early as September 2016, with construction officially having begun in August this year.

According to Thompson, the Merensky II Library and Technical Services Building were selected based on a variety of factors, including the condition and strength of the roofs, shading from surrounding buildings, and orientation of roofs relative to North. The Merensky II Library installation consists of 380 solar panels which are able to produce 125 kilo-watts of power at its peak, the equivalent of powering 40 mid-sized homes, while the Technical Services Building installation consists of 487 solar panels producing 161 kilowatts of power at peak, enough to power roughly 50 mid-sized homes.

The two systems are expected to produce a total of 484 000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. “The effort shows a commitment to sustainability by UP, and will result in carbon emissions reductions of approximately 430 tons of carbon dioxide per year” said Thompson. The solar panels are pitched at 15 degrees using fixed mounting structures and will be North facing to maximise energy production. Thompson further adds that the project is a pilot project and “we are in the planning phases for projects of a similar nature to be implemented at UP's new Future Africa campus and UP has also made clear its intent to roll out more solar PV installations on more buildings at its main campus.” The solar power project is expected to be completed in November, taking roughly three to four months for the entire project.

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