A Port Elizabeth company specialising in substructures for solar photovoltaic installations has become the first in Africa to mount a million solar panels – all completed in less than three years since the company was founded.
The majority of the panels have been fitted to PiA Solar designed and manufactured substructures, according to Colin Muller, co-founder of PiA Solar.
“This is a major company milestone and a celebration as to how renewable energy is overcoming the hurdle of power supply in South Africa,” says Muller.
PiA Solar is the first African solar substructure company to obtain ISO 9001 quality certification for its manufacturing and installation processes.
The company has been responsible for the installation of some 400 MW of solar installations since its inception in 2012, of which 260MW is on their locally designed and manufactured structures.
The millionth panel was fitted by a PiA Solar team at SCDA3, a 90MWp Solar Capital solar farm is located just outside De Aar.
According to Axel Pustet, PiA’s director of business development, the million solar panels provide enough power for around 83 300 three-bedroomed homes.
He believes that the demand for solar power will continue to grow.
“Most countries face an ongoing challenge to produce sufficient clean electric power – and South Africa is no different.
“We will need to continue to invest in the production of clean power. Fossil fuel-powered stations are a major contributor to pollution and global warming.
“There will be increased pressure on South African companies by overseas consumers and customers to use ‘clean’ power,” he says.
PiA Solar is seeing an increase in demand for small-scale solar plants by the owners of factories and agricultural processing plants, as well as landlords of major shopping centres, office and residential complexes.
A payback period of five to eight years, followed by at least 20 years of free power, make a strong business case for the investment, he says.
Another factor in favour of solar power is that it is now produces electricity at utility (power station) scale for less than the official costs of power to be produced by the new Medupi coal-fired station.
According to Muller the cost per kilowatt-hour for solar power has reduced to below 80 cents for wind and solar, while power produced by the Medupi Coal Power Station power will cost around R1.28 a kilowatt-hour.
“By June this year there was already 1 800MW of renewable already feeding the grid, with a further 7 000MW of renewable power is already approved by the DOE (Department of Energy),” he says.
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