College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

Unisa's Horticulture Centre goes green(er)

The Horticulture Centre at the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) achieved a new milestone in its endeavours to lead the way in greenhouse production in South Africa.

The Ceres Building on the Unisa Science campus was fitted with solar panels to supplement the energy supply, and these began operating on 17 August 2018.

The college’s intention is to make the greenhouse ‘green’. The new 35 kWp rooftop solar panels have been installed on the roof of the potting shed building, which enables the greenhouse to function purely on energy harvested from the sun via solar panels during daytime.

Inverters automatically switch over from grid power to solar power in the morning, when radiation from the sun is sufficient. When the rays of the sun are weaker in the late afternoon, the power supply changes back to grid power.

A dashboard in the computer room displays the amount of energy harvested from the solar panels during the day, and any oversupply is fed back into the science campus energy grid.

This initiative supports other previous ‘green’ initiatives: in 2017, rainwater harvesting was installed at the Horticulture Centre, thereby reducing its dependency on municipal water. The next step was to reduce its electrical power needs, which has now been accomplished with the addition of the solar panels. Plans for the future include the reuse of grey water and the storage of the solar energy oversupply in batteries for night-time use.

The achievement which this solar energy milestone at the Horticulture Centre heralds, indicates that the CAES Laboratories and Horticulture Centre are  committed to leading the way in green industries through the sustainable use of resources. These choices will foster collaboration and build partnerships with other departments, to help launch future initiatives aimed at ensuring resource sustainability.

Submitted by Poppie Khoza

Publish date: 2018/09/25