A look at Robben Island’s R25 million solar plant

Robben Island’s solar energy micro-grid has gone live – a R25 million project which will produce almost 1M kWh of electricity annually, significantly reducing costs of buying diesel and transporting it to the island.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said last week that the launch of the solar-powered mini-grid plant at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years, is the first step in turning the world heritage site green.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) mini-grid has the capacity of generating 666.4 kilo Watt peak (kWp) of clean energy, reducing the island’s reliance on the existing diesel generating system.

The integrated system carries the entire daytime electricity load and prioritises solar PV energy generation, which is supported by an 828 kilo Watt hours (kWh) battery storage – enabling the use solar energy on cloudy days and at night.

“It is estimated that the system will reduce the use of diesel generators by almost 45%, which means that the annual diesel usage will drop from around 619,000 litres to 344,000 litres, saving the Island about 275,000 litres of diesel per annum.

“What we are therefore looking at, is that this project will save the fiscal an estimated amount of almost R5 million per annum, which means that this project will pay for itself within five years,” the minister said.

The micro-grid solar project was designed and constructed by Sola Future Energy, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner of the department of tourism, using CS6U- 340M Canadian Solar modules.

The solar PV farm consists of 1,960 Canadian Solar (CS6U-340M) high-efficiency modules with a total of 666.4 kW power supply. Robben Island uses almost 2 million kWh of electricity annually.

“The micro-grid on Robben Island is the largest combined solar and lithium-ion storage micro-grid system in South Africa,”

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