South Africa has opened the continent’s first solar-powered airport in Western Cape. George Airport which serves over 600,000 passengers annually, has launched a clean energy project which, during its first phase, will contribute around 40% of the airport’s electricity needs. Once completed, the airport is expected to be totally independent of the national grid.
The airport will generate its electricity by harnessing energy from sun tapped through photo-voltaic panels which were installed at the cost of almost a million dollars. Airports Company South Africa, which runs the airport, hopes George Airport will be the first of nine airports under its control to run on solar energy as it chases the lofty goal of running airports fully on renewable energy.
Airports Company of South Africa can turn to India for guidance, last year, at the cost of $9.5 million, Indian government launched Cochin International Airport Limited, the world’s first ever solar-powered airport.
During the launch, South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters described the solar airport project as one that “admirably demonstrates the South African government’s commitment to clean energy generation and sustainability, as well as to our country’s increasingly prominent role when it comes to global climate change issues.” Peters believes that despite South Africa’s low global emission footprint, its potential in renewable energy generation places it in a position of responsibility with regards to combating climate change.
“Collectively, Africa contributes very little to the dangerously high global greenhouse gas emissions, but our benign culpability does not suggest that we do not have a very significant role to play when it comes to climate change.”
The George airport manager, Brenda Vorster also speaking during the launch said:
“I think environmentally we are giving our bit back, and making an impact ensuring that we leave a legacy for the children’s children going forward, and not just for the airport company, but for the whole community – the greater George itself.
“So for George airport, as a forefront runner on this, we are very excited that we can challenge other companies to start embarking on going green. Obviously we are a business and going forward we would like this to be an investment – but that is not our initial goal. Our goal is to go green.”