Ugesi Gold and EnergyNet’s off-grid energy solution starts generating power at SA school

With the attendance of the President’s Office, Gauteng Province, Department of Energy, Department of Education and the IPP Office, the Government of South Africa will officially inaugurate the Solar Turtle at the off-grid school in the informal settlement of Palm Ridge in Gauteng province, South Africa, next month.

In 2015 the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) was approached with a new way of providing solar electricity to off-grid schools. Other solar projects previously attempted saw their solar panels stolen or vandalised within weeks. This next generation SolarTurtle- called the PowerTurtle - provides a secure solution for Pheasant Folly Primary and the children attending.

With no grid connection, Pheasant Folly Primary School is powered by expensive generators which are not sustainable within the school’s financial budgets, given that fuel alone costs more than R2000 per week. This is clearly not an ideal situation for the school or the environment, so a solution was desperately needed to facilitate affordable energy access and continued learning.

PowerTurtle is a unique, container-based design which allows for unparalleled security. Morning sunshine triggers the solar panels to roll out and a specially engineered rail system to unfold in minutes. In the evenings the solar panels to slide back into the reinforced 6m shipping container for safe keeping. This pilot boasts an impressive 16x 300W solar PV panels (4.8kW), the latest Freedom Lite lithium batteries and top-of-the-range 8.5kW Schneider solar technology.

An estimated 2500 off-grid schools in Gauteng require support - typically located in informal settlements across Gauteng.  Crime and vandalism have played major roles in the disuse of solar PV power in South Africa.

The fund is designed to provide an alternative financing solution for small scale beyond the grid projects across the continent that will contribute positively in communities – especially in areas of healthcare, education and female empowerment. Its first investment was made in partnership with the IPP Office of South Africa - awarded by the Honourable Minister for Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson MP - to provide secure electricity for the primary school and its community.

James van der Walt of Ugesi Gold and the developer of SolarTurtle commented; “PowerTurtle is the first step towards secure, reliable and sustainable electricity for schools like Pheasant Folly Primary School. The unique PowaPod design allows a series of solar panels to unfold from the confines of a secure 6m shipping container, and back again at night. With this extra security the panels are set to outlast the harsh realities that off-grid schools face. By launching the PowerTurtle in Palm Ridge we hope to show the potential of not only secure electricity for the school but an energy solution for the whole community. I would just like to thank our friends at AMSolar and RexiVista that help bring the PowerTurtle to life”

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