Solar power was playing an illuminating role in Johannesburg inner city regeneration efforts, as solar streetlights have been installed on Kenmare street, in Yeoville as a part of the Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville upgrade being carried out by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).
Broadwing Technologies installed the three solar streetlights.

“Evaluation was done together with the JDA, to monitor performance, and it was found that the solar street lights were not only satisfactory, but exceeded their [JDA’s] expectations,” Broadwing Technologies director Dan Hurwitz told Engineering News Online.

The cost of the installation of solar streetlights was said to compare favourably with the cost of installation of conventional streetlights. “The capital cost is more or less equal to the traditional grid-connected streetlight, but there are a number of additional benefits,” Hurwitz added.

Lifecycle maintenance costs of the installation are favourable as the Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs used in the streetlights, use a lower voltage to produce a brighter light and can be used without replacement for about 20 years. “The thin-film solar panel used has a very high temperature tolerance, and is immune to damage from hail,” stated Hurwitz.

Renewable energy from the sun meant independence from the Eskom coal-based generation of power, which in turn meant cost savings and environmental gains.

Hurwitz added that another advantage was that the installation offered instant electrification, and there was no need to trench cables or wait for connection to the grid. The installation could take as little as 30 minutes, as the unit would arrive at the location partly assembled.

The streetlights were manufactured locally.

“The idea came from other countries – we saw that it was being utilised in China and Europe and we actually looked at importing one of these units from China, but we found that the quality of the product that we received from China would not suit the South African climate and consumer market, and therefore we opted to design our own system in South Africa for South Africans,” said Hurwitz.

There was also the possibility of retrofitting existing high pressure sodium and the older mercury vapour street lights, with more efficient LED lights, which would also result in alleviating strain on the Eskom national grid.

“Even though it is still grid connected using the existing infrastructure, we believe that it could save up to a third, and our estimation is that for every 12 000 or 15 000 street lights that are retrofitted, you could save 1 MW. We believe that City power, in Johannesburg, has about 140 000 streetlights installed just in their region, so if one took the whole country, doing these replacements could save a significant number of megawatts and it would certainly help with the electricity crisis that the country is facing,” Hurwitz concluded.