George Airport is going green

Airports Company South Africa's Group Executive for airports Andre Vermeulen fills us in on the fascinating technology around using environmentally friendly energy sources at these airports.

The airport is not yet completely off the grid. In peak times we are able to feed the airport's entire load from the solar farm. Obviously the solar farm is driven by sunlight and from 11am to 3pm we could generate anything from 680 to 740 kilowatts, which in real terms can feed the entire airport at that time. Obviously in the morning when there is less sunlight that's when we feed from the local municipality.

Andre Vermeulen, ACSA

This project is planned to test the solar farm in George and see how well it works. Once the feasibility has been proved the project will be rolled out to all six regional airports including Kimberley, Braam Fisher and Upington.

Looking at the data we have achieved in terms of power generation, we have exceeded our assumptions.

Andre Vermeulen, ACSA

Vermeulen says the plant is working exceptionally well and has generated 740 kilowatts during peak time.

Solar technology has become cost effective and as soon as storage technology becomes more affordable, the excess power can then be fed into the airport during off peak periods. Then the airport will be able to function completely off the grid.

It has been a R16 million investment in 3000 solar panels, 30 inverters integrated into a fully automated system.

Andre Vermeulen, ACSA

George Airport is not the busiest airport and ACSA estimates it will probably only break even in about thirteen years.

But for us its not only about cost efficiency. Its also about driving the notion of cleaner energy and decreasing the carbon footprint of our airports.

Andre Vermeulen, ACSA

He says without a doubt green renewable energy will be implemented in the larger airports as well - and the likes of Cape Town International, OR Tambo and King Shaka International all have enormous roofs that are ideal to house the solar PV panels.

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