This week the Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN), in partnership with AEE- Institute for Sustainable Technologies (AEE INTEC) from Australia, officially launched two of the largest Sub-Saharan solar systems during an event held at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg.

The project was managed by the centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI).

“SANEDI is delighted to be associated with such landmark development that put the SOLTRAIN  projects firmly on the renewables table. The successful conference we have just held with SOLTRAIN partners indicates the relevance of this highly successful programme for the SADC renewable energy strategy and the development in successful systems across six countries,” said centre manager of the Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development, Dr Karen Surridge.

According to SOLTRAIN, the first solar plant will be allocated at Wits University where it will provide a heating system for the university’s residence, while the second one will be allocated to the Klein Karoo International (KKI) tannery.

Furthermore SOLTRAIN said that the Wits Junction district heating project combines solar, co-generation and gas heating technologies which will service 14 student residence buildings with hot water from one centralised hot water plant room.

While the KKI tannery has installed a 600 square metre solar collector system to reduce costs and increase competitiveness and move its production to a more renewable base.

SOLTRAIN added that these two solar systems will save millions in energy cost over the lifetime of the plants, as the electricity cost from the co-generator is equal to municipal cost while the thermal energy is free and the centralised plan requires a lot less maintenance intervention.