SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY
The existing Solar Laboratory at Stellenbosch with the solar chimney project forms an excellent base from which to pursue research into solar energy. As South Africa is also blessed with an abundance of sunshine it makes sense that solar energy should have a high priority. The research at Stellenbosch University focuses on the thermal energy from the sun and, for the time being, does not include photovoltaic systems. In particular, thermal storage solutions are pursued as well as evaluating the solar resource and economic feasibility of large-scale solar thermal power plants. The expertise in dry-air cooling established over many years at Stellenbosch is also very relevant to this field.
The Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) was formally constituted in 2010, in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, and is currently funded by Sasol, the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry (via the THRIP programme). This research group, together with the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical at the University of Pretoria, forms the Solar Thermal Energy Spoke. STERG is also collaborating with the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which has an active group working on solar resource measurement and characterisation.