Solar energy is used to power equipment such as watches, calculators,
cookers, water heaters, lighting, water pumping, communication,
transportation, power generation, and many more. Solar energy,
like all other renewable energies, is very safe and environmentally
friendly. There are no emissions as the source of fuel is the
sun, unlike coal-powered stations.
Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of
sunshine per year, and average solar-radiation levels range
between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in one day.
The southern African region, and in fact the whole of Africa,
has sunshine all year round. The annual 24-hour global solar
radiation average is about 220 W/m2 for South Africa, compared
with about 150 W/m2 for parts of the USA, and about 100 W/m2
for Europe and the United Kingdom. This makes South Africa's
local resource one of the highest in the world.
The use of solar energy is the most readily accessible resource
in South Africa. It lends itself to a number of potential uses
and the country's solar-equipment industry is developing. Annual
photovoltaic (PV) panel-assembly capacity totals 5MW, and a
number of companies in South Africa manufacture solar water-heaters.
A pilot programme has been launched to establish a limited number
of public-private sector institutions in conjunction with the
relevant municipalities to provide electricity services on an
integrated basis. The service-provider will own and maintain
the systems, allowing longer-term financing to ameliorate monthly
payments. It will provide the service against a monthly fee.
Once the underlying managerial and funding issues have been
resolved, the process will be expanded to cover all rural areas.
Solar power is increasingly being used for water-pumping through
the rural water-provision and sanitation programme of the Department
of Water and Sanitation.
Solar water-heating is used to a certain extent. Current installed
capacity installed domestic 330 000 m2 and swimming pools 327
000 mē (middle- to high-income), commerce and industry 45 000
mē and agriculture 4 000 m2.
Three co-operatives with more than 10 permanent employees each
have been started in the Eastern Cape to maintain 8 000 solar
home systems installed under the previous electrification programme.