South Africa’s Solar Resource Compared to the Rest of the World

The sun is without a doubt one the most reliable and abundant natural resources in South Africa. Professor Detlev Kröger, Senior Researcher and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University claims that South Africa is one of the best places in the world to develop solar power. The commonly known irradiation maps clearly show the intensity of the sun, and where it is most heavily present on the African continent – mid Northern and Southern Africa, which lies almost within the tropics, where the sun is intensified.

Despite places such as Europe only having around 1000 hours of sun per year (1 Sun hour = 1000Wh/m2), these areas have been successful in installing the majority of the world’s solar power. There are a number of reasons why Europe owns most of the world’s leading solar power plants, namely: higher energy costs, more environmental awareness and stronger economies able to subsidize the initial solar energy projects. As the solar industry is relatively new within South Africa it is important to recognize the amount of sun that SA has compared to other parts of the world and furthermore, to recognize the increased potential this has for solar PV developments to be successful. According to the South African Department of Energy, “Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, with an average solar-radiation level range of between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2per day.” This, coupled with the solar revolution the world markets, as well as South Africa, are currently experiencing, represents a huge opportunity for the South African market to take advantage of!

Furthermore, according to South Africa Info, South Africa is considered a “relatively dry country,” with national rain levels remaining low around an average annual rainfall of only 464mm compared to the world average of 806mm. Solar PV cells do not require water to operate. In fact, the less rainfall the more chance of sunshine, resulting in more generated energy from solar PV. This represents another great advantage of South Africa’s solar resource. Most of South Africa’s large capacities for development exist in areas such as The Karoo. This is another advantage for South Africa as these lands are sun drenched, relatively flat, have sparse levels of vegetation and a low population density. In comparison, other parts of the world such as Italy, Germany and the US often encounter overlapping between developed/commercialized areas and high irradiation areas, which inhibits the possibility to take full advantage of the solar irradiation exposed at these places. These factors all contribute to outstanding development opportunities for the South African solar industry.

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