Skip to content

Africa’s largest single-rooftop solar plant launches in Pietermaritzburg

Published: 12 December 2013

Pietermaritzburg is leading the way with Africa’s first 1MW single-rooftop grid-tied solar plant. Sustainable Power Solutions and its subcontractor, Renen Renewable Energy Solutions, completed the installation on the roof of the Belgotex factory in just 12 weeks.

The 8000m2 array of solar panels spans an area slightly larger than the size of a rugby field and was installed at a cost of R17 million. It forms part of the floor-covering manufacturer’s Green Journey strategy to offset 5% of its carbon emissions each year.

Using optimised engineering design and cutting-edge components, Sustainable Power Solutions delivered on the brief by Belgotex to design, procure and project manage the installation of an emission-curbing, cost-saving solution that will generate sufficient energy to power the equivalent of 200 average households daily. Thanks to the efficiency of design, the plant will avoid carbon emissions of 1386 ton each year, by not having to rely on electricity produced from coal.

Sustainable Power Solutions is the Cape-based engineering, procurement and construction company that was also responsible for the 710kWp solar power installation at the Dube TradePort in KwaZulu-Natal.

Pietermaritzburg-based Renen Renewable Energy Solutions provided the mechanical and electrical installation of the Belgotex plant, under the guidance of a Sustainable Power Solutions project engineer.


Far-reaching benefits

Sustainable Power Solutions MD, Axel Scholle commended both his and Renen’s team for “excellent teamwork and the quality of the installation”. He added: “Here’s a great example of two leading role players in the alternative energy industry pooling their capabilities to provide a client with far-reaching benefits.”

Sustainable Power Solutions engineer, Anja Visagie, who had been responsible for the project management of the 1MW plant added: “As a hedge against rising electricity costs, an installation of this nature allows the client to fix a portion of their electricity expenditure. It is a long-term solution to current and future energy constraints that are particularly relevant to South Africa.”

Renen’s MD, Warren Confait, said that his project developers and installers have “a unique understanding” of the challenges facing South African companies when dealing with renewables. “That’s why they were able to quality control the installation, ensuring that all aspects such as connectivity, earthing, mechanical mounting and panel fixings were completed with absolute accuracy and conformed to all the design requirements of both Sustainable Power Solutions and the client.”

Renen provides renewable energy solutions for sub-Saharan Africa, covering the full alternative energy spectrum, including the feasibility study and implementation of a 1MW biogas energy plant in Namibia.

The plant at Belgotex has been installed at an angle of 15 degrees on the north-facing roof of the facility. The installation comprises 4080 polycrystalline modules, each rated at 245 Watt-peak. This will yield 1415 MWh per year. The modules are tied to 64 Danfoss three-phase grid inverters and the output of the grid inverters is integrated into Belgotex’s electricity system at 11 000 volts.

An integrated web server compiles data on the status of the solar plant. The information is fed to a web portal, which the client and the operations and maintenance teams can access simultaneously.

Scholle lauded the proactive decision of Belgotex Floorcoverings to embrace sustainable power as part of its commitment to a greener future. He said: “The interest of commercial and industrial clients in solar power generation is what will make solar power sustainable in South Africa. This will ultimately lead to a change in how the electricity sector in South Africa operates – to the benefit of both customers and the environment.”