South Africa’s renewable energy research capacity has been bolstered through establishment of the Scatec Solar Chair in Photovoltaic (PV) Systems at Stellenbosch University (SU).

The Chair is supported by Norwegian global solar energy providerScatec Solar, which is the first company to supply electricity to South Africa’s national grid under the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP).

Scatec Solar recently signed a contract with SU to establish the new Chair, which will enable the university to expand its leading role in renewable energy research in South Africa. SU’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies and a number of departments work together in such fields as solar thermal energy, bio-fuels, wind turbine technology and ocean energy.

The Chair will provide support for a PV industry, which is set to show phenomenal growth in South Africa, from a mere 30 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in 2012 to between 12 000MW and 20 000MW by 2035, according to a study commissioned by the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association, the Department of Trade and Industry and the World Wildlife Fund. PV market growth will be driven not only by utility-scale projects under the REIPPPP, says the study, but even more so by companies that install the technology to reduce their exposure to rising electricity tariffs and carbon taxes, and to some extent by homeowners.