Solar thermal technology platform for South Africa to be launched in May

Submitted by: Jonathan Ramayia, Tuesday, April 30, 2013

<p>The solar thermal technology platform will form part of the larger SOLTRAIN programme which also conducts solar thermal training (Image source: SOLTRAIN)</p>

The solar thermal technology platform will form part of the larger SOLTRAIN programme which also conducts solar thermal training (Image source: SOLTRAIN)

The South African Solar Thermal Technology Platform (SA-STTP) is being launched on 17th May in Pretoria facilitated by AEE INTEC, in collaboration with the Sustainable Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), the Sustainable Society of Southern Africa (SESSA), and sponsored by the Austrian Development Agency who is the core funder. The aim of the SA-STTP will be to promote the growth of all solar thermal energy technologies which include solar water heating, solar heating/cooling, and solar process heat. Similar launches will take place in the partner countries, Mozambique and Namibia.

According to Dieter Holm, regional co-ordinator of the programme, the technology platform “will aim to bring together stakeholders from all sectors to share knowledge and information and to discuss and agree on a roadmap for the way in which the sector will grow”. The South African solar thermal technology platform will provide a space (be it physical or virtual) where everyone with an interest in solar thermal technology can exchange information and discuss challenges and opportunities in the sector. 

Purpose of the platform

Serving primarily as a networking and information-sharing space, the SA-STTP will provide links and expertise from the existing European STTP, allowing stakeholders to access expertise from established solar thermal centres in Europe. The programme will also work towards establishing links with a larger Southern African version.

The Platform has a number of other benefits for stakeholders and will provide the opportunity for members to:

  • Share information on technical, practical and financial aspects of solar thermal energy
  • Identify knowledge gaps and opportunities
  • Mobilise institutions or individuals to do the required research
  • Disseminate the results and keep records of the roll-out of solar thermal energy systems in the country

Who should register for the SA-STTP?

Stakeholders that should register typically include research institutions, academic institutions, training centres, utilities, government, industry associations, NGOs, manufacturers and equipment suppliers, other solar thermal companies such as installers, regulators and standards organisations and any other person or institution with interest in solar thermal energy.  All stakeholders are also invited to attend the launch of the SA-STTP which takes place on 17 May 2013.

The SA-STTP will provide a neutral platform for discussion and transparent decision making that includes all stakeholders. The process will initially involve an identification of key solar thermal stakeholders, facilitated in part through the event launch. Each stakeholder will be given the opportunity to propose a vision and mission for the SA-STTP, and stakeholders will be put forward their contribution to achieving these goals. “We believe that it is important to establish a common goal and shared vision, we need to know first where it is we want to take solar thermal, and then from there the fleshing out the details is what will follow from the platform”, said Holm.

An interactive network will be set up, where a suitable website will be developed, noted Holm. Sub-objectives and tasks are developed with firm commitments by responsible stakeholders, and planned feedback loops. The regional STTP for Southern Africa will be developed in parallel to this process.

Larger SOLTRAIN programme

The SA-STTP is part of the larger Austrian Development Agency (ADA) funded, SOLTRAIN programme, now in its second phase (SOLTRAIN2), explains Holm. The creation of a technology platform for solar thermal was suggested by stakeholders three years ago at the end of SOLTRAIN1. In particular participants noted that it would be an effective vehicle for the promotion of solar energy in the region. The SA-STTP will work closely with the regional Southern African STTP explains Holm, “the reason for co-ordinating efforts regionally and including South Africa’s neighbours is that South Africa’s market is too small to justify large scale production and the setting up of a knowledge-based economy for solar, which might make it difficult to compete internationally with established solar industries elsewhere in the world”.

Now in its second phase, SOLTRAIN2, the programme will also make funding and subsidies available to install pilot and demonstration systems - in Flagship Districts - in order to promote the use of solar thermal energy. SOLTRAIN2 aims to implement sustainable institutional structures and focal points for solar thermal information, training, support for industry and policy makers as well as for applied research. These Centres of Competence will be implemented in institutions of higher education in each country participating in SOLTRAIN2. These Centres of Competence will carry out comprehensive training programmes ranging from practical hands-on training to university level courses.

“The expertise we have on board provides a unique opportunity for local players to tap into a vast knowledge base, and we hope the platform will make the country and the region competitive on the international scale. The programme will ultimately support the growth of our industries”, said Holm. Expected outcomes of the SA-STTP programme include research and development, training, awareness raising, proposals to national government influencing policies and economic incentives on solar thermal as well as working towards standardising solar thermal products in the SADC region.

For more information on the launch event which is set for 17th May go to the SA-STTP launch event webpage.

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Jonathan Ramayia