The earth has been providing us with alternative energy sources since the beginning of time. These sources could provide the answers to many of the world’s energy problems if only they were explored to their fullest potential.
South Africa is a country with large amounts of untapped resources especially in the field of alternative energy. The beauty of renewable energy is that the sources constantly replenish themselves. So if this is the case, why have these energy sources not been properly utilized?
Renewable energy has far reaching benefits, such as:
- The reduction of carbon emissions, and infrastructure can be built quickly to match the country’s need for electricity.
- Some renewables already supply cheaper electricity than the newest coal power plants.
- South Africa is taking the lead in Africa which gives us the opportunity to become a key global player in this growing industry.
- Investment in renewable energy in South Africa can provide decent jobs and increase skills.
- South Africa is a solar-rich country with one of the highest solar resources in the world.
Solar power, holds the most potential in South Africa, because of the large amounts of radiative energy due to the country’s geographical location. Solar power can also be used almost anywhere in South Africa making it an excellent alternative to coal-powered stations. It is safe, environmentally friendly, free and abundant.
There are also a number of other advantages when it comes to solar power and some of the most basic advantages that are needed on a day to day basis include:
- It can be used to purify water
- It can be used to heat water
- It is a reliable source of energy
- Solar power can reduce electricity bills drastically
Wind energy, which is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world, is another renewable energy source in South Africa. However, it only practical in areas with strong and steady winds. High wind potential in the Western and Eastern Cape have made these two provinces pivotal in harnessing wind energy.
The wind that flows through the atmosphere is captured by wind power and converted into mechanical energy which is then turned into electricity. The earliest example of wind power is that of a windmill which used the wind to pump water, ground grain and many other things. In more modern day times, wine turbines are high-tech windmills.
Advantages of wind power include:
- It is cost effective & sustainable
- Wind power does not pollute the air
- Wind turbines can be built on existing farm lands and can often times provide an extra source of income for the farmers
But what makes Solar and Wind power better alternatives to providing South Africa with energy? According to Engineer and researcher Tobias Bischof-Niemz, a former chief engineer at Eskom, “The cost of solar and wind power has declined so much that it is now the cheapest electricity option for many countries for new power generation”. It also is more labour intensive than current electricity generation, which in turns creates more jobs. The other benefit to alternative energy sources is that wind and solar power is variable and these variables can be predicted ahead of time. Changes in wind and sunshine availability can be dealt with by using flexible power supplies, such as coal.
As a country that is rich in renewable energy sources, South Africa needs to start utilizing these efficiently in order to create a more sustainable future.