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Solar Electrification Pilot Project launched in Thembalethu

In the photo is Dmitry Reznichenko a Project Engineer at Specialized Solar Systems (front left) showing Alderman Leon van Wyk, the Executive Mayor of George (front right) how the remotely managed technology works. The onlookers are, from left, Cllr Nosicelo Mbethe (Portfolio Councillor for Electrotechnical Services & Fleet), Phumla Magwebu (Beneficiary) and Cllr Thandiswa Qatana of the George Municipal Council. Standing at the back is Zenande Gubeka from Specialized Solar Systems).

Amidst ongoing challenges with load shedding affecting millions across South Africa, thirteen families residing in informal settlements in Thembalethu, a township in George, now enjoy reliable off-grid solar-powered electricity supply, courtesy of the Specialized Solar Systems’ Solar Electrification Pilot project.

During an official visit to the informal settlements on Thursday, 26 April 2024, Alderman Leon van Wyk, the Executive Mayor of George, inaugurated the Thembalethu Alternating Current (AC) Solar Electrification Pilot Project. “What we’ve now seen is the inauguration of the first pilot project and it is pleasing to see that this has worked. We want to applaud the company for taking this initiative and developing some new novel technology to make this work, so we certainly hope we can take this forward and expand this project to other areas.”

Expressing his enthusiasm for the initiative, Mayor van Wyk emphasised the collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector in transforming lives and improving living conditions. “This project is a remarkable example of groundbreaking technology enhancing dignified living while ensuring safety and affordability,” Mayor van Wyk added.

Andrew Behrens, the projects manager from Specialized Solar Systems (SSS) explained the innovative off-grid system, which utilises remotely managed technology to convert solar energy into usable electricity. Through overhead reticulation and automated switching meters, households receive fair and reliable power, managed remotely. Additionally, residents have the option to choose bundled power packages with Pay-As-You-Go billing, ensuring affordability and accessibility.

The project, initiated following a proposal invitation by George Municipality in 2022, was undertaken by Specialized Solar Systems in 2023 at no cost to the Municipality. Pierre Conradie, a senior electrical engineer at SSS highlighted the project’s goal to provide electricity to residents in informal areas not covered by traditional electrification programs. The Thembalethu project introduces groundbreaking technology, setting a sustainable precedent for future energy solutions.

Phumla Magwebu, a Zone 3 Informal Settlements beneficiary in Thembalethu, expressed gratitude for the project, saying, “The project has brought light into our lives. I’m very grateful, I wish more people could benefit from it.”

The project aims to collect valuable data and feedback to ensure its success and sustainability for future initiatives. “After about 6 months of project pilot evaluation, we will discuss the future of the projects based on the results and data from the pilot, said Daniel Greeff, the acting Director of the George Municipality’s Electrotechnical Services Directorate. George Municipality appreciates all stakeholders, including municipal officials, councillors, and the community, for their contributions to this transformative project.

Front row: Cllr Nosicelo Mbethe (Portfolio Councillor for Electrotechnical Services & Fleet), Ald Leon van Wyk (Executive Mayor of George), Cllr Thandiswa Qatana (Proportional Councillor in the George Municipality) and Pierre Conradie (Electrical Engineer) Specialized Solar Systems.
Middle row:
Phumeza Ndinga (Beneficiary), Phumla Magwebu (Beneficiary), Mayvis Bhoto (Beneficiary), Yonga Giba (Beneficiary), Andrew Behrens (Project Manager, Specialized Solar Systems), and Dmitry Reznichenko (Project Engineer) Specialized Solar Systems.
Back row:
Melt Loubser (Managing Director MDL), Johan Henning (Senior Technician Specialized Solar Systems), Stiaan Adams (Electrical Engineer CMB), Jonathan Hodgson (CEO, Specialized Solar Systems), Peter Bergs (Managing Director) Specialized Solar Systems, and Zenande Gubeka (CRM Specialized Solar Systems).
The project aims to collect valuable data and feedback to ensure its success
Andrew Behrens, the senior project manager from SSS explained the project to attendees
13 families from Thembalethu informal settlements enjoy reliable off-grid solar