South African petrochemicals group Sasol recently announced a R3mn, five-year sponsorship of solar thermal energy research at Stellenbosch University's Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering.
The money will be used to appoint a senior researcher to lead the research effort, and to purchase new equipment for the University's Solar Roof Laboratory. The funding is in addition to a R4mn investment by the university on expanding the research facilities and appointing support staff in the solar thermal energy research group, Sasol said.
Investing in universities The investment forms part of Sasol's university collaboration project, which builds on the company's longstanding relationships with leading South African research universities to partner in research and development projects. Through the collaboration, universities will be able to leverage Sasol's research resources, while Sasol will be able to complement their own research efforts and capabilities by leveraging academic excellence to assist with the effective execution of research and development projects.
Renewable energies The solar thermal energy research at Stellenbosch University supports Sasol's initiative to investigate opportunities in the field of renewable energies and low carbon electricity. During 2008, Sasol formed a New Energy division to develop business opportunities that would help reduce the company's greenhouse gas footprint. "Southern Africa is blessed with some of the best solar radiation in the world, which is why Sasol supports the development of solar energy technologies as a viable renewable energy source for southern Africa within a carbon-constrained future," Sasol said.
Research and teaching expertise Stellenbosch University has established research and teaching expertise spanning a wide spectrum in renewable energy, and in particular in solar thermal energy. "The Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering has a long history of involvement with the South African power generation industry, delivering valuable research results that frequently led to improvements in the efficiency of power stations making it a logical partner for Sasol in researching new energy opportunities," Sasol said. Over the last 11 years, the department has focussed on bulk renewable solar power generation.
Training scientists Stellenbosch University established a Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies in 2007 to implement its postgraduate programme in renewable and sustainable energy studies. "The primary objective of this programme, funded by the South African National Energy Research Institute, is to train scientists and engineers with the required technical expertise to unlock the country's renewable energy resources, on the one hand, and implement appropriate technology for using sustainable energy, on the other."