R6m green energy project targets WCape no-fee schools

Green energy measures being implemented in the Western Cape are anticipated to help 100 no-fee schools in the area. The project, estimated at R6 million, will see energy efficiency startup, GreenX Engineering, undertake detailed energy audits at the various schools to decide how it can equip them with energy-saving lighting and solar PV to track and control their consumption.

The recent solar PV system installed at Cloetesville Primary School is funded by Stellenbosch University’s social impact committee. Rhenish Primary School, also located in Stellenbosch, donated some of the solar panels. 

The solar panels on top of Cloetesville Primary School were officially handed over to the school on 12 August 

A Stellenbosch University-Green X collaboration

GreenX is a Stellenbosch University and Innovus spinoff firm that specialises in energy efficiency, energy data modelling, energy retrofitting project implementation, and business networking. Professor Thinus Booysen and Dr Jason Samuels of the Department of Electric and Electronic Engineering together with Professor Saartjie Grobbelaar from the Department of Industrial Engineering, Stellenbosch University are involved in GreenX.

Dr Samuels, who leads GreenX, expressed his hope for the product: 

“We hope that after successfully completing the work on the first 25 schools, the WCED will extend our project to include the rest of the 75 schools. We foresee that a school will be able to save anything between 20-40% on their energy bills, which could mean an average saving of around R3 000 per school per month and a total of R36 000 per year.”

Prof Booysen, who is Dr Samuels’ mentor, confirmed that they have managed to reduce Cloetesville Primary School’s energy bills by anything from 21%, to as much as 39%.  It is estimated that R15 000 will be saved on electricity costs from the grid as the school will use 14 MWh less from the grid per year. The system will also help Cloetesville Primary reduce its carbon emissions by almost 13 tons annually.

From left to right: Salie Abrahams, the deputy director-general at the Western Cape Education Department, Dr Leslie van Rooi, Stellenbosch University’s (SU), Prof Saartjie Grobbelaar, Rodger Cupido, principal of Cloetesville Primary School, Dr Jason Samuels managing director at GreenX Engineering, Alex Hall, principal of Rhenish Primary School and Prof Thinus Booysen.

The impact of COVID-19 on the energy usage of schools in South-Africa

The project follows an energy efficiency initiative that was rolled out at the school as part of Jason Samuels’ PhD research. As part of his research and this initiative, Dr Samuels conducted research with Professors Booysen and Grobbelaar on the impact of COVID-19 on the energy usage of schools in South Africa.

South Africa’s public (non-private) schools face many challenges, especially budgetary constraints, and even more so for schools in the lower four of the five affluence quintiles.  These budgetary constraints are compounded by the rising cost of water and energy, of which schools are heavy and often wasteful users. 

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on global operations and economies. Inadvertently, lockdowns and working from home have reduced the daily carbon footprints of transport and office buildings. One of the unintended consequences of these reductions is the ability to measure the differential demand of occupants, to benchmark the base load of these buildings, and identify opportunities for efficiency improvements. Professors Grobbelaar and Booysen and Dr Samuels evaluated the change in energy demand in five public schools in South Africa with changes in occupancy due to the COVID-19-imposed lockdowns.

Read the full GreenX article at https://www.itweb.co.za/content/o1Jr5MxPENYMKdWL

For the complete results and full research see Samuels, J., Grobbelaar, S., & Booysen, M. (2021, June 2). Pandemic and bills: The impact of COVID-19 on energy usage of schools in South Africa. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esd.2021.10.001