In a huge stride forward in green energy and sustainability, South Africa has unveiled the continent’s very first solar powered airport. George Airport — located halfway between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town — has set new standards for sustainable air travel. The airport will meet 41% of its energy demand from 200 square meters of brand new solar powered panels connected to a solar power plant built on its grounds. The facility officially launched recently but is not yet running at full capacity. It uses 3,000 photovoltaic modules and has already begun to increase capacity. Eventually, the plant hopes to deliver upwards of 750 kilowatts of power when it finally reaches full production. All told, the endeavor cost just over a million dollars to design and construct, and is part of South Africa’s commitment to green energy.
This push for sustainable and renewable energy was inspired by India’s Cochin International Airport — the very first airport created to run exclusively on solar power — and the Galapagos Ecological Airport, which runs on solar and wind power.
“As an airports management company running nine airports nationally, part of our strategic objective is to minimize our environmental impact,” said Skhumbuzo Macozoma, the chairman of the Airports Company South Africa Board. He went on to add: “Harnessing solar power is a viable cleaner energy source which contributes towards diversifying the energy mix. This plant will ensure that the airport is self-sustaining in terms of its power needs, and will eventually extend to the broader community within the George municipality.”
The airport is a hugely important transit hub in the region, handling over 600,000 passengers a year. Many of them are tourists, but it is also used as a national distribution center for a variety of different types of cargo, including flowers, seafood, and other goods.