Maintaining the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), isn’t any simple feat and in 2011 the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) commenced with an investigation into the feasibility of utilizing solar energy to offset the price of electrical energy, however on the time it was not possible.

SAAO is greatest recognized for the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). Funded by a consortium of worldwide companions from South Africa, Poland, the US, the UK and India, the telescope attracts astronomers from around the globe to the Karoo. 

While SAAO and SALT operations are of serious worldwide significance, they’re additionally expensive to run and keep. So, in 2011, SAAO commenced with an investigation into the feasibility of utilizing solar energy to offset the price of electrical energy.

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Initially, the price of putting in solar energy was prohibitive and never applied because it required capital funding which, on the time, was required for the first focus of gathering information for astronomy sciences.

Some years later, NASA turned fascinated by inserting a telescope on the positioning as a part of their ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) challenge, which focuses on figuring out and finding asteroids that would doubtlessly hit Earth.

Due to South Africa’s ongoing loadshedding, NASA had issues in regards to the availability of electrical energy. To alleviate the positioning’s dependence on Eskom, funds to develop a supplementary energy plant, counting on batteries and solar energy have been made accessible and the transfer in the direction of sustainable vitality options started.

Google Earth picture of the photo voltaic array at SALT.

Keith Browne, SALT Electronics Engineer, commented: “The backup turbines on the web site have been additionally upgraded which obviated the necessity for an unbiased energy provide for NASA’s ATLAS telescope.”

“It was then doable to redirect funds to put in a 40kVA grid-tied system that might profit your entire web site.”

SEM Solutions, a South African firm specialising in sustainably engineered vitality and water options for the industrial and industrial constructing sectors, have been awarded the tender and put in a grid-tied photo voltaic PV plant in 2019.

Located on prime of the SAAO workshops, the set up supplied 53kWp and served as a supplementary energy provide to the prevailing Eskom provide.

“The observatory web site has a very good photo voltaic useful resource because it has an altitude of 1,780m with low rainfall and a comparatively cool local weather, all of which contributed to glorious PV operations,” says Browne. “Post a 12 months of operation and with ‘real-world’ information in hand, the SALT Board was satisfied similar-sized system would work on the SALT shops roof.”

In late 2020, SEM Solutions put in one other 53kWp system on the SALT shops roof that additionally feeds your entire web site.

Menno Sulsters, Operations Manager at SEM Solutions, stated: “Although each installations have the identical put in capability, the primary set up had 156 PV modules of 340Wp every and the second set up was 128 PV modules of 415Wp every.

Sulsters added: “This demonstrates the improved effectivity of the PV modules over only a 12 months, going from a most of 340W popping out of 1 PV module to 415W popping out of the identical dimension PV module. Both installations have the identical Huawei 40kW inverter put in and are linked to the identical on-line monitoring portal.

“To put this in laymen’s phrases, each of the installations are working exceptionally effectively and are persevering with to point out a optimistic return on funding as operations proceed, regardless of loadshedding, and vitality consumption prices lower”.

SAAO are on the Ruralflex tariff construction from Eskom so the price of electrical energy varies throughout the day and in the summertime and winter season.

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“Electricity use is highest within the winter when the tariffs are highest and solar energy the bottom, so SAAO is at the moment contemplating wind energy to compensate for the…

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