Greening the airport

28 November 2011

Dube TradePort is installing Africa’s largest roof-mounted photovoltaic solar power system at its “AgriZone” next to King Shaka airport as part of its efforts to be more “green” by reducing its carbon footprint.
The installation, which will supply more than 600 kilowatts at its peak to the facility, is expected to be officially launched during the 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), which begins in Durban next week.
Speaking to The Mercury on site yesterday, Rohan Persad, CEO of the Dube TradePort Corporation, said the project was the first solar panel installation of this scale at an airport precinct in Africa.
He said it was one of several measures being taken to reduce the development’s carbon footprint and environmental impact by using various green technologies and innovations.
“We are doing things differently at Dube TradePort and are taking climate change and environmental issues seriously. We understand that airports generally have a high carbon footprint because of the nature of the business. However, at our facility we have measured its annual carbon footprint at around 181 000 tons currently. We are the first airport facility in Africa to do this,” said Persad.
Installing the hi-tech photovoltaic solar power system would cost about R17 million and was part of the R430m investment budgeted for the entire AgriZone facility.
“The first phase of the installation took place on the roof of the logistics and cold storage facility, which will feed power to the AgriZone grid before the start of COP17. The second phase will see solar panels installed on the roof of the warehousing facility, once the building’s construction is complete. Together the solar panels cover an area of about 4 200m2,” added Persad.
Dube TradePort awarded the contract to supply and install the system to a joint venture between South African-based Power Solutions and leading German solar technology firm SolarWorld AG.
Axel Scholle, director of Power Solutions and lead engineer on the project, said about 2 900 solar panels would be installed on the two buildings at the AgriZone. This would make it the biggest installation of its kind in Africa, overtaking a project in Kenya.
“This ground-breaking photovoltaic installation will make a significant contribution towards meeting the energy requirements of the AgriZone. In doing so, it will enable a more sustainable and environmentally sound operation at Africa’s most advanced hydroponics facility,” he said.
Gregor Küpper, managing director of SolarWorld Africa, said the firm was proud to be involved with such a landmark project.
“It showcases the African continent’s unlimited potential for solar power generation. It is also especially important at this time when the world’s focus is centred on COP17 in Durban,” he said.
Persad said Dube TradePort was undertaking a range of initiatives to manage its carbon footprint. In addition to the solar power project, its other initiatives include rainwater harvesting at all buildings on site; developing only Green Star rated buildings in the Dube City precinct; and undertaking rehabilitation programmes of surrounding land together with the Airports Company of South Africa. The rehabilitation initiative has seen hundreds of indigenous plants and trees being planted as well as the removal of alien plants.