In December last year, Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Energy Technology Station known as KwaZulu-Natal Industrial Energy Efficient Training and Resource Centre (IEETR), which is based in the Department of Physics within the Applied Sciences Faculty, and the Energy and Water Sector Education & Training Authority (EWSETA), launched a major energy project, to educate rural communities on climate change and alternative energy sources through knowledge and skills transfer.
“As EWSETA, we are mandated to drive the green economy and … to do that, we need to ensure sustainability in all energy solutions,” said corporate services executive Candice Moodley during the event.
She highlighted the importance of educating rural communities on the benefits of using renewable energy and how this contributed to a more sustainable future. “With the energyDRIVE truck, communities are able to see how renewable technology works; for example, what a solar panel looks like, understanding how it can help them with energy access, and how they can use bio-waste to generate energy.”
A public-private funded project called the energyDRIVE Project, cost about R3-million to design and construct and is now the first globally. The project was well supported by the management of Applied Sciences, DUT and was financed primarily by the Energy and Water SETA (EWSETA) with backing from Nedbank, Conlog and Caltex Chevron.
The energyDRIVE project involves a custom-built truck that is being used in national roadshows targeting rural schools, and technical and vocational education and training colleges and exhibitions in South Africa to inform communities about the benefits and uses of renewable energy technologies. The energyDRIVE project has a target of reaching approximately 500 000 pupils, nationwide, over the next few years.
Inside the truck
The framework of the truck’s container was designed by the Energy Technology staff from the IEETR Centre at DUT and features a solar roof structure and a wind turbine mounting system, a bio-digester, a photovoltaic panel display unit, a solar hot water display unit and other demonstration equipment. The walls of the container are occupied by a battery bank, photovoltaic components, TV and display cupboards. Interactive demonstration models, alternative solar energy display wall units and an energy efficiency unit are also features of the container.
To date, the team have conducted roadshows in Johannesburg, the Eastern and Western Cape, Bloemfontein and KwaZulu-Natal and, through partnership once again with EWSETA, has successfully exhibited at four major energy conventions, winning awards in two. “The project had its first roadshow in February 2017,” said Professor Ian Lazarus, energyDRIVE project leader. “We successfully exhibited the truck at the Africa Energy Indaba Conference at the Sandton Convention Centre. The truck attracted attention from key role-players in South Africa and international organisations. The energyDRIVE truck was also popular amongst delegates and exhibition visitors, and received the runner-up award at this Conference,” said Lazarus.
Tembisa West Secondary, KwaDukathole Secondary and CJ Botha Secondary Schools were stops in the Johannesburg roadshow, where pupils were given alternative energy demonstrations and were taught about climate change. About 700 pupils were reached at the three schools and both teachers and pupils were fascinated with the demonstrations.
The truck recently returned to Johannesburg and was exhibited with EWSETA at the National Skills Authority Conference and the Power Supply and Electricity Conferences where it was once again well received.
En route to Cape Town, two weeks ago, the truck travelled to schools in Matatiele, Umtata and Port Elizabeth and was exhibited at the African Utility Week Conference at the Cape Town International Conference Centre, winning the “best in show” award for the most innovative exhibited stall in recognition of creativity, concept and design. After the conference the truck visited John Ramsey High School in Bishop Lavis and demonstrated to the learners the various renewable energy technologies while introducing them to the opportunities as innovators and entrepreneurs in the energy field. The truck was then exhibited at the Claremont Improvement Centre and at the Claremont Bus Terminus attracting a large number of school pupils and commuters who had an opportunity to be a part of the energyDRIVE project. On its return to KwaZulu-Natal the energyDRIVE truck visited schools in Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Ladysmith.
“From EWSETA’s perspective, it is important for us to continue to partner with DUT to expose the energyDRIVE to as many of our stakeholders in the sector as possible. By so doing, not only are we showcasing our remarkable and innovative technological capabilities, but also EWSETA’s commitment to supporting our higher education and training institutions who are making a big difference to the energy landscape of the country,” says EWSETA chief executive, Errol Gradwell. “When further opportunities arise for EWSETA to invite DUT to exhibit the energyDRIVE, we will continue to do so for the benefit of both organisations and the sector as a whole”.
The project will now set its sights on KwaZulu-Natal schools for the remainder of the year and then extend its travels both nationally and then into Africa, with Swaziland being the first neighbouring country.
This energyDRIVE project will further promote skills training courses in energy related fields, such as energy management, renewable energy systems, marketing expertise, environmental engineering, electronic control systems, digital systems, biogas, systems design, systems optimisation, quality control, product development, hydrology, water supply and provision, and carbon credit. An EWSETA accredited DUT Energy Skills Training Centre has been established at DUT.
“The team want to enhance the truck — i.e. the energy efficiency booth. We are also developing photovoltaic kits to hand out at schools to demonstrate to learners that solar energy can be used as an alternative energy source and encourage young minds about possible alternative energy innovation ideas,” said Lazarus.
“After a year and a half of rigorous planning and production, it is exciting to see the positive impact the energy Drive Project has had on curious learners, energy experts and the wide interest it has attracted from local and international delegates and exhibition visitors.”
Call 031 373 5360 should you want to arrange a demonstration for your learners.
Importance of the project
The energyDRIVE project addresses the pertinent national issues of skills and technology transfer, entrepreneurial development and commercialisation. It also promotes public awareness of alternative energy and energy efficiency. The truck demonstrates the value of DUT’s skills and training programmes, with special focus on engineering and science.
The roadshow emphasises the local need for specialised skilled labour and research opportunities, as most rural learners are unaware of courses offered at higher education institutions.
The Energy Technology Station at DUT promotes awareness during school visits, exhibits the technology behind solar energy and makes pupils aware of alternative and renewable energies. Through these efforts, the centre supports DUT’s focus on community engagement, as students could return to their community and provide mentorship. The mobile unit also acts as a training, research and energy awareness unit for DUT students.