Solar Maps Workshop at UKZN

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From left, Mr Riaan Meyer (CRSES), Professor JL
van Niekerk (CRSES), Mr Nisaar Mahomed (TIKZN),
Ms Liesel Beires (DEDT), Professor Cristina Trois
(Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Engineering)
and Mr Mike Brooks (SERG)..

The School of Engineering’s Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG), which is located in the discipline of Mechanical Engineering, recently hosted KZN’s first provincial workshop dedicated to the measurement and analysis of solar energy.

The workshop was presented by Mr Riaan Meyer of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) and Mr Mike Brooks from UKZN’s SERG. This follows the procurement of high quality solar maps by the KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT) and Trade and Industry KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN). UKZN and Stellenbosch University partnered to provide the solar maps, which allow potential developers to find the best locations within the province for constructing photovoltaic and concentrating solar power plants.

The workshop was opened by Professor Cristina Trois (UKZN Dean of Engineering), Professor JL van Niekerk from CRSES and Ms Liesel Beires from the KZN DEDT. Professor Trois welcomed delegates and described the various renewable energy initiatives that UKZN is pursuing, including projects in waste-to-energy conversion, solar and wind energy studies. Professor van Niekerk said that as the effects of climate change begin to be felt, a key strategy is to ensure that the power supply system is resilient in the face of disruptions.

Delegates were given an overview of various solar technologies, such as photovoltaics, concentrating solar systems and solar water heaters. The types of instrumentation used in sun strength measurement were described, followed by a session dedicated to satellite-derived solar data and the statistical uncertainties associated with solar maps. Of special importance was the question of ‘bankable data’ and the criteria related to financing solar energy projects.

As part of the workshop, Brooks gave a presentation on the history and current status of solar energy monitoring efforts in KwaZulu-Natal. At present there are three high-quality ground stations within the greater Durban area recording solar data at 1-minute intervals. Delegates were shown how to access the data using the university’s online GRADRAD website.