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Cape Town company making great strides in solar lighting

5 February 2015 10:36 AM

miSolar has been exporting solar-powered street lighting to Southern African countries while local market slow to respond

The dreaded term "load -shedding" is soon to become part of our daily lives again. It has become a necessary tool to keep the grid operational while electricity demand exceeds Eskom's ability to generate and supply.

But we also have a problem in South Africa where cable theft is commonplace, and as a preventive measure, street lights in some areas are left on all day to keep the electricity cables live, in order to deter cable thieves, as the cost of keeping the lights on is less than the cost of replacing the stolen cables.

But it is a visible waste of electricity in a time when everyone has been asked to cut back on electricity usage, and a caller to the Breakfast Show with Kieno Kammies asked whether solar-powered street lights would not be the solution.

After an investigation by our producers, we tracked down a Cape Town-based company that specialises in solar-powered lighting solutions - miSolar.

Their solar lights are manufactured and assembled in Cape Town, and designed to suit the harsh African environment. Owner and director Greg Walton says that they used to import their light units from China in the past, but made a decision two years ago to make them locally, and using as many local components as possible.

They supply solar street lights to a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the DRC, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. All of them have been private deals, but they are in discussions with the government for a pilot project in Zanzibar.

Their lights are used to illuminate the properties of large mines, commercial parking lots and body corporate parking areas. They also have smaller units for domestic purposes.

While one might assume that the cost for such technology would be a negative factor, Walton reminds us that the installation of traditional street lights have the added cost of laying down a network of cables, and also have ongoing electricity costs, whereas solar street lighting systems are all independent.

Walton says there is a slow take-up in South Africa because it is still so easy to get connected to the grid.

One of their newer design features is to allow the lamps to burn less intently in certain hours, so that they can be switched on for longer on a single charge.

Listen to Kieno Kammies' interview with Greg Walton below:

5 February 2015 10:36 AM