Change the world


A large clearing adjacent to the main intersection in front of the main tower building on Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus awaits the establishment of a new solar farm, to supply the institution with green electricity going into the future. The project is planned to be completed by February 2019.

The area has just been levelled for construction and long-term drainage. The fencing will be erected in the next three weeks, followed by construction of the bases and supporting structures.

“Apart from the obvious huge financial benefits to the university, the solar farm will also serve as a ‘technology park’ to academic units for technology and other research, another big advantage,” says the University’s sustainability engineer AndrĂ© Hefer.


While the solar farm is perfectly located to signal the university’s intent to tackle sustainability head-on, there are practical reasons for its central positioning.

“One of the most influential reasons is its proximity to the existing substation for the connection to our internal electricity grid. This would not be feasible if it were too far away.

“The other reason is that all environmental considerations were taken into account, and no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required for this development.”

According to Andre, who is part of the university’s Infrastructure Services and Sustainability Department, the only other solar installation equal in magnitude in the metro, is the 1 MW installation at Volkswagen.

In line with the university’s Urban Design Framework, no academic or residential buildings are planned for this site.

What the solar farm will look like on completion.


The procurement of the new plant is based on a partnership model between the university and renewable energies company Tasol Solar. The agreement will see the university giving Tasol Solar access to land for development and maintenance of the plant for 10 years, while selling the energy back to the university during this period.

At the 10-year mark, the university will take over ownership of the PV power plant – and will no longer have to buy the electricity produced, and technically the plant will generate “free” electricity for the rest of its design life span of 20 years. Should the project and delivery model be a success, the possibility exists for additional solar PV power plants to be installed at some of the university’s other campuses.


Another green initiative starting soon is the Return Effluent Scheme Phase 1, which will provide the entire sports field complex with return effluent water. This project is planned to be completed by April 2020.