Robben Island converts to solar energy
Robben Island has an energy-usage profile that comprises residential needs, desalination, the harbour and offices. In total, the island uses almost two million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually. Up to half of this requirement will now be fulfilled by the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) project.
The solar energy microgrid was designed and constructed by SOLA Future Energy. Commissioned by the Department of Tourism, the system is situated on the island and consists of a solar PV farm, combined with a lithium-ion battery storage facility and smart controllers to ensure a seamless electricity supply.
The solar PV farm consists of 1 960 mono-crystalline modules with a total of 666,4 kW power supply. The battery bank, consisting of 2 420 lithium-ion battery cells, is able to store 837 kWh and output a maximum of 500 kVA. The diesel generators are used when no solar or battery storage is available.
“For Robben Island, the solar microgrid will reduce its fossil-fuel consumption by 235 000 litres of diesel per annum, or 50 percent of previous usage. This will reduce the Island’s carbon emissions by at least 820 t,” explains Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy.
As the island is a World Heritage Site, environmental and historical considerations meant that the site for the PV farm had to be carefully chosen. SOLA staff were also sent for training on how to handle penguins, snakes and wildlife as well as archaeological artifacts that might have been discovered underground.
“The microgrid on Robben Island is the largest combined solar and lithium-ion storage microgrid system in South Africa. It is a very good example of how non-electrically connected Africa will be powered in the next 20 years,” Wills says.