South Africa opens continent’s first solar-powered airport

Daryl Chingono

South Africa has ramped up its green credentials by unveiling the continent’s first solar-powered airport. The George Airport is located between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The project is the latest in the string of alternative energy investments designed to help relieve the burden of irregular electricity supply, which has long plagued parts of Africa.

Currently, the airport will meet 41% of its energy demand using the solar power plant built on its grounds. The facility, which was officially launched two weeks ago, has 3,000 photovoltaic modules, and will gradually increase capacity to deliver 750Kw power when it reaches full production. The end goal is to have the airport completely self-sufficient and potentially add to the grid.

It cost just over a million dollars to build, and is part of South Africa’s commitment to introduce a mix of energy sources to all its airports. Although small, it handles roughly 600,000 passengers a year, many of them tourists, but it’s also a national distribution hub for cargo such as flowers, fish, oysters, herbs and ferns.

The clean energy initiative follows in the footsteps of India’s Cochin International airport, the world’s first entirely solar powered airport, and Galapagos Ecological Airport, built in 2012 to run solely on Sun and wind power.

Last year, a UK start-up collaborated with Shell to build a solar-powered soccer pitch in the Nigerian city of Lagos, but governments are also increasingly harnessing the Sun’s energy for major infrastructure projects. Last month, Morocco switched on what will be the world’s largest concentrated solar plant by its completion. It is predicted to power one million homes by 2018. In Rwanda, a $23.7 million solar plant has increased the country’s generation capacity by 6% and lighting up 15,000 homes.

This comes at a time when many African countries are experiencing a solar revolution. 635 million people are estimated to live without power on the continent and solar power is seen as the most efficient way of providing this resource.


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