South Africa has a “green” airport! One where all their services: the check in desks, the baggage carousels, restaurants, ATMs and even the Control Tower are run from the electricity generated from solar panels…
Who knew! We actually have three, part of a six airport plan expected to be up and running by mid-2017.
This is a massive step forward as a country, and from one our ‘state owned’ enterprises, toward reaching our government’s sustainable development imperatives, increasing our energy security and environmental conservation obligations.
In a politically, let’s call it – interesting – time, this is one good and worthwhile campaign that has stayed the course. As the state owned enterprise responsible for the movement toward a more environmentally friendly conscious country, ACSA, battles on in court, the project for the solar overhaul of 6 regional airports is underway with at least 3 airports already completed. Not bad considering they started the project in September 2015…
The large corporation, and beacon of hope for South Africa’s plans to reduce our own carbon footprint, giant enterprise, ACSA – the Airports Company South Africa, an environmentally conscious company, believes that by decreasing their dependence on the national power grid, they will begin to fulfill their role by increasing energy security (electricity sustainability) and the diversification of the energy matrix (fancy way of saying, using different types of electricity together) as their key priority to ensure sustainability of business activities, says the GM for Regional Airports at ACSA.
ACSA has dedicated a project worth R90 million over the period of two years for the completion of 6 regional solar powered airports to ensure they fulfil their obligation as a large enterprise to continue to grow and support the movement toward finding and using different more environmentally friendly solutions to source electricity to keep our country running.
This admirable and much needed progressive step toward not only our own but our entire planet’s sustainability is a shining example of South Africa’s commitment toward going green…
The unveiling of the first “Green Airport is Africa took place in George on the 16 May 2016.
Speaking at the opening ceremony at George Airport, Skhumbuzo Macozoma, Chairman of ACSA, said: “As an airports management company running nine airports nationally, part of our strategic objective is to minimise our environmental impact.” He said the company was looking into ways to reduce energy consumption, water consumption and noise levels as well as find ways to use energy-efficient materials.
South Africa with its broad open spaces and African sun has proved to have the potential for generating renewable energy and government plans to generate nearly half of the country’s power needs by 2030.
This is the R16 million, 3 000-panel solar plant at George Airport in the Western Cape. One look at the use, natures free gift to us and of previously unusable land due to noise constraints and one starts to recognise that opportunities truly exist under our beautiful African sun.
In this tiny town of George with 150 000 people in the Western Cape, the weather is so unpredictable, one would never think to find Africa’s first Solar Powered Airport. Surely not, when we consider that South Africa has rolling acres of sun-baked land in other provinces, and George is anything but!
This small airport, with its bustling tourist industry and acting as a transit hub for shipments of oysters and flowers, sees an average of 700 000 people through its doors each year, has proven to be an excellent test site for the airport solar roll out plan.
The unpredictability of the weather played an especially large role. ACSA, wanting to ensure the energy matrix solution would work for all six regions, made the decision to first try it in George, as the weather conditions were far more extreme in George than other parts of South Africa. The probability of the success of the nationwide project increased exponentially if the idea was a success there, which of course, it has been.
Ultimately solar power plants like this one will reduce the load on the constrained on the power grid. This 75KW plant will eventually see George Airport going off the power grid completely.
It already supplies 41% of the airport’s electricity needs.
Here are some facts about our very own and Africa’s very own, first solar powered airport, George Airport.
- This is the second Solar Powered Airport in the world. The first being Cochin in South India
- There are 3 000 panels located on the roofs of the airport building and on 0.7ha of land adjacent to the airport.
- The airport produces 750KW per day. Only 400KW per day is needed.
- In September 2016, the excess energy was fed back into the grid and powered 274 households.
- As of October 2016, George Airport lowered their carbon emissions by 1 229 tonnes!
- The energy efficient solution costs a mere R250K per year in maintenance, with an average savings of R65K per month.
- The solar batteries used in the panels last 25 years.
- The R16 million spent on the airport will be recovered in 10-15 years, leaving the remaining 10 years of profit.
- The plan has also created jobs both in the temp and permanent fields boosting the local economy.
- Since its implementation, load shedding cuts have become a thing of the past.
With all of these benefits, “going green” seems to be an obvious choice. With the planet’s climate change predictions slowly gaining respect around the world, it is a matter of time before we see landscapes like this…
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