The endless natural energy provided by the African sun, free of charge to anyone willing to harness it, is finally beginning to reach critical mass on the continent. Not only does the biggest solar farm in Africa launch next month in De Aar in the Northern Cape (a R4.8 billion project able to power a reported 75 000 homes), but South Africa’s first solar-powered airport is now ready for takeoff.

Located in popular Garden Route tourist hotspot in the Western Cape, George Airport, which currently serves more than 600 000 passengers a year, will generate 100% of the airport’s electricity needs from more than R16 million worth of photovoltaic panels – about 3 000 of them, once the project is complete.The airport is expected to be totally independent from the national power grid and set the example for nine other airports that Airports Company SA hopes to convert to using solar energy.

George Airport follows the lead of India’s Cochin International Airport, which is completely solar powered. Speaking at the airport opening last week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said that South Africa had in place a target of generating 42% of its power needs through renewable energy sources by 2030. It’s a hugely ambitious task, but could alleviate the pressure the grid is currently under. In sub-Saharan Africa, where about 68% of the population lives without electricity, the initiative could just bring some light to those in need.

Solar power to the people!

Read more on the greening of George Airport here.