The system, which consists of a photovoltaic array, two wind turbines, a battery bank, associated controllers and an inverter, was commissioned by three mechanical engineering students, in January, under the guidance of senior lecturer Dr Russell Phillips. Funding from the Automotive Industry Development Centre’s tertiary education institution human resource programme made it possible.
Phillips explains that, currently, the energy harvested is used to power equipment in the Siemens laboratory located close to the source and there are high hopes of expanding the system and powering the entire laboratory and others in the near future. NMMU recognises the dire need to move away from fossil-fuel-derived energy sources to renewable sources.
Apart from producing energy, the renewable-energy system will be used as a research platform for postgraduate students conducting research in this rapidly evolving field. There are already a number of master’s students researching several innovative enhancements to increase the yield of energy from micro wind turbines, reports NMMU.
Further, it will provide undergraduate students with a basic understanding of the different components in a renewable-energy system and the importance of integrating this technology into designs that they will undertake in their careers. It will also serve as a live visual display for staff, students and visitors to NMMU.
In the near future, a live Inter-net portal will be introduced to display information regarding the actual energy harvested. This information will assist designers of renewable-energy systems, particularly with regard to issues of financial viability, he adds.
NMMU reports that the position of the system is highly visible to all and, as such, should create an awareness that such technology exists and is viable and ready for incorporation into domestic and work environments.