NWU is looking beyond load-shedding to sustainable greener energy solutions

While addressing the current challenges posed by load-shedding, the North-West University (NWU) is also looking at long-term sustainable and greener renewable energy-generation solutions. This will not only ensure energy security, but also underscore the university’s commitment to just energy transition.

The NWU is already struggling to balance the utility budget with the added procurement of diesel for the emergency generators. “This is why we are constantly looking at ways to reduce our usage and costs,” says Hendrik Esterhuizen, director of Engineering Compliance at the NWU’s Facilities department.

According to Hendrik, the NWU has continually used multiple energy-saving initiatives such as installing LED (light-emitting diode) lights in its buildings and the sophisticated Schneider Electric Power Monitoring Expert software systems to ensure effective energy management. Other measures include new electrical and water main-ring reticulations to reduce municipal connections, and various meters for electricity, water and controllers respectively.

It is also anticipated that clean drinking water will become the next big challenge and will be very scarce by 2030. The NWU is already looking at initiatives in this regard.

May the sun shine down on the NWU

Solar energy is one of the greener energy solutions that the NWU believes will save costs and reduce the profoundly negative impact of load-shedding.

The NWU’s latest project is the five-phase installation of solar photovoltaic electric generation facilities (PV plants) on all three its campuses. It entails the installation of solar systems at the three main libraries. There are two other phases of decentralised solar plants with the following capacities:

Mahikeng Campus: 1 000 kWp

Potchefstroom Campus: 2 000 kWp

Vanderbijlpark Campus: 385 kWp

Project manager Willem Erasmus says each of these installations will be completed as individual projects. Two of the phases will take place on the Potchefstroom Campus and one specifically at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds (K block area). The other two phases will be at the Mahikeng Campus and the Vanderbijlpark Campus. These solar systems will operate while the campuses use normal power and when the emergency generators are used, providing a dual benefit in energy reduction.

“We are very excited about these installations and aim to have all the phases in their construction stages by March 2024.” He says the official starting date for the installations is 15 January, with full completion of all phases expected by April 2024.

“The importance of this project is that we are not only looking at relieving the ongoing and immediate energy supply challenges brought on by load-shedding. We also, and more importantly, want to address issues of environmental sustainability – especially in reducing the NWU’s carbon footprint,” says Ntokozo Kunene, chief director of Facilities.

Behavioural change paramount to addressing energy challenges

In the end, even with all the energy efficiency projects, every staff member, student and stakeholder still has a significant role to play if the university wants to achieve its energy goals.

It is all about behaviour that enforces energy efficiency. “We aim to achieve a 10% behavioural reduction in energy use by 2024,” says Hendrik, stressing that it will have a profound impact if everyone takes responsibility for their own carbon footprint.

Principal and vice-chancellor Prof Bismark Tyobeka echoes Hendrik’s sentiment. “We live in an age where we can easily count the steps we take each day. Hopefully one day every person will also be able to measure the effect they have in terms of carbon emissions. Each of us should behave in such a way that we not only conserve energy but also use it efficiently.”

The NWU’s other goals include sourcing a minimum of 30% of energy from renewable sources by 2025, increasing metering points to 2 000 by 2030, reducing municipal connections from 300 to 50 by 2028, and improving preventative maintenance plans to reduce breakdowns.


Ntokozo Kunene, chief director of Facilities, Prof Bismark Tyobeka, principal and vice-chancellor of the NWU, Toni de Canha from Adenco Construction (Edms.) Bpk., Abdullah Jeevah from ADQ Engineering, and Hendrik Esterhuizen, director of Engineering Compliance.

Submitted on Mon, 11/27/2023 - 15:06