2 March 2016
George Airport is only the second in the world that uses solar energy, following
Cochin International Airport in India.
The first phase of the George solar project, officially opened by the Department of
Transport and the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), is part of a R16-million
plant that converts solar energy into direct current electricity using solar panels.
The operation produces 680 kilowatts a day and powers 41% of the airport, with the
aim to convert to 100% function by the end of the year.
Acsa describes the new project as the best way to reduce energy demand from
the national grid and harness solar power to power smaller airports around the
The initiative is part of the company's Vision 2030. It plans to open two
more solar plants to serve Kimberley and Upington over the next two years.
The project falls under Acsa's strategic environmental objectives which, in
addition to reducing energy consumption, include minimising water consumption,
increasing waste recycling, eradicating noise pollution and using energy efficient
materials in all
"Sustainability, in terms of our environment, means that we need to over time
be very careful about how we use any form of energy and then also other natural
resources, like water," says Acsa group executive, Andre Vermeulen. "As a
company, we have got a plan in terms of our footprint, in terms of how we are
going to consume electricity and water – especially electricity. It is about reducing
our carbon footprint and becoming a carbon neutral company."
George Airport manager Brenda Vorster welcomed the project, which currently
powers the airport's car rental area, cargo warehousing, flight schools and airline
offices, adding that "our second phase will be starting within the next year".
Minister Peters calls the project an enhancement for not only the airport
industry, but also for the people of the area. "This is a way of contributing jobs.
There were people who worked here during construction and we now know there
are about 16 permanent jobs that have been created by this plant at the airport. We
are also happy to indicate that the other regional airports will also be looking at
how they'll be able to introduce renewable energy."
Energy and transport were two crucial government portfolios in fulfilling the
goals of the National
Development Plan's own Vision 2030 for the development of
the country as a whole, she added.
The George Airport solar power plant, the first phase of which opened on 26 February 2016, consists 200m2 ground mounted solar photovoltaic panel systems that can generate up to 750kw of electricity through harnessing energy from the sun, to make the airport and surrounds completely non-dependent on the national electricity grid. (Image: YouTube)