In the far North-West of Swaziland, on the border with South Africa, lies the almost forgotten town of Bulembu. Once home to a thriving Chrysotile mine, the town was effectively shut down overnight when the mine closed down in 2001, leaving thousands unemployed.
The town was bought in 2006 by Bulembu Ministries Swaziland (BMS) with the vision to re-establish a self-sustaining community, and provide holistic support for orphans and vulnerable children. Various enterprises have been established around the town, providing employment for residents as well as much needed funding for BMS. The community enterprises include Bulembu Timber, Dairy, Honey, Bakery and Bulembu Tourism, among others.
Power to the town comes from the Swaziland Electricity Company (which in turn sources 60-80% of its energy - produced primarily by the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels - from Eskom). Due to the long power line and the geographical location of the town, the electricity supply is unpredictable and often encounters extreme frequency fluctuations and power outages. In addition, steep electricity prices ensure that the town is burdened with enormous monthly bills (R 253.000 - August 2011).
These factors formed the basis for plans to establish a Solar PV (photo-voltaic) plant for the town. Since BMS is a non-profit organisation it needed to obtain external funding to undertake this project, and this was done through the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and the Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP).
SAR Electronic SA was tasked with the design and the installation of the plant. The plant consists of 108 Bosch Mono-crystalline solar modules and 2 SMA STP12000 inverters. The system is designed to produce 25kW of electricity, calculated to be 8% of the electricity requirement of the town.
The installation is a ground mounted system, and the frame supporting the solar modules is fixed to the ground through a system of TerraFix ground anchors. These anchors are drilled into the ground to provide a solid and sturdy mounting point for the framework, and make concrete redundant.
This installation will bring some relief, however small, to the power challenges faced by the town. A BMS employee stated: "When you're in the non-profit business, every bit helps. The installation of these solar panels is an exciting step forward in realising our goal of self-sustainability and moving to clean renewable energy. SAR's technical aptitude, care for the client, and professional demeanour was clearly recognised."
Size of the plant: 25kWp
Total number of modules: 108 x Bosch Solar Module c-Si 60M240
Power inverters: 2 x SMA STP12000
Installation periode: 23.09.2011 - 29.09.2011
Installation partner: SAR Electronic SA (Pty) Ltd.