The city of Johannesburg, home to 4-million people and a contributor of nearly 12% of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has in the course of this financial year, installed 120 000 solar-powered geysers in its communities to not only save its electricity-stressed generation, but also to clean up its environmental mess, and therefore shifting towards a low carbon economy.
The project, which has already served the areas of Devland, Golden Triangle, Alexandra East Bank, Alexandra River Park and Lehae, will go on until 2015, city officials reveal.
“Each geyser carries 100 litres of water and is powered through sunrays, which take about 30 minutes to heat the water,” Johannesburg mayor Parks Mpho Tau explains.
Each heating unit is said to accommodate a family of five who are guaranteed to enjoy a warm water bath at one point in the morning within 30 minutes, but only if water is used responsibly, City Power, the city’s electricity utility, says.
The project has also created 1000 ‘green’ jobs, mainly in the manufacturing, assembly, installations and repair of solar water heaters already installed, according to city officials.
The financial cost of the project is not yet known, and the mayor’s spokesperson, Fred Mokoko, could not be reached for comment.
Tau said the project will go a long way towards providing a resilient, livable, friendly and sustainable urban environment, and ultimately improving the lives of residents.
City officials say 3 000 solar-powered geysers will save more than 716 000 MWh per annum, which translates into saving millions of rands if this was generated from electricity.
Despite carrying a prestigious tag of Africa’s biggest economy, South Africa is an electricity-stressed country, constantly threatened by power outages and load-shedding – a consequence of decades of negligence, under-investment, lack of political will, dubious policies and state corruption.
In April 2010, the World Bank granted Eskom, the country’s cash-strapped national power supplier, a controversial loan of 3.75-billion USD to finance its future power investments.
The bank said at the time that the loan will help South Africa achieve a reliable electricity supply, while also financing some of the biggest solar and wind power plants in the developing world.
South Africa is also an environment-messed country, which emits over 50% of all of the continent’s greenhouse gases, mostly emanating from its coal-fired factories that generate electricity (Eskom) and petroleum products (Sasol).
Johannesburg officials say installing solar water heater units will result in the reduction of 436kg CO2 emissions per annum, enabling the city to drastically shift to a lower carbon environment.
*PIC: ENOCH LEHUNG/CITY OF JOBURG. A Johannesburg neighbourhood fitted with solar-powered geysers.