Solar thermal energy in South Africa

South Africa is one of the areas with the highest solar irradiation on earth, making it an ideal location for the use of solar thermal energy. Since there is no central hot water supply in social housing, water is primarily heated by electricity or with kerosene stoves. This causes high costs for the households and leads to poor air quality in the houses.
The goal of the project is to install one million small solar thermal systems within five years and thus significantly improve the living conditions of the people. The low-cost alternative for water heating will be used in settlements with many low-income households.
The project is being implemented by the Solar Academy of Sub Saharan Africa (SASSA). The high implementation costs are covered by support from the solar thermal subsidy program of ESKOM, South Africa’s largest electricity utility, and climate finance. Due to their low operating costs, the small solar thermal systems offer a cost-effective alternative for water heating.

Currently, residents heat their water primarily electrically or with kerosene stoves. This releases the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. The project aims to eliminate old kettles from households, thereby eliminating the use of carbon-intensive fossil fuels. Households will benefit in two ways: the air in their homes will be cleaner and operating costs will decrease.

Ecological effects:

  • Avoidance of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide.
  • Improved air quality due to reduced fossil fuel combustion.

Positive social and economic side effects:

  • Establishment of a continuous hot water supply, thus improving living and housing conditions.
  • Elimination of kerosene stoves leads to better air quality and thus fewer respiratory diseases and improved living conditions.
  • 300 jobs have already been created by the project - 100 of them permanent for installation, maintenance and repair. Training has been provided for staff.
  • Cost savings for the population, as the solar thermal hot water supply eliminates the cost of purchasing fuel.
  • The solar thermal tanks help to relieve the unstable power grid, as less electricity is used to heat water.