January 2023.

Solar PV plants, together with other renewable energy power technologies, are already acknowledged for producing no greenhouse gasses during power generation, however, Aries Solar Power, close to Kenhardt, in the Northern Cape, has been able to further reduce its environmental impact, thanks to a number of biodiversity interventions.

“We have implemented a number of interventions at Aries Solar Power to further minimise the impact of this renewable energy power on the surrounding biodiversity and environment, having set ambitious targets a number of years ago. We piloted a number of programmes and have been pleased with the results, which we can now report on,” said Marli Schoeman, Environmental Specialist at Aries Solar Power.

Already, solar PV has negligible impact on avifauna, with the added benefit of not using water during power production. However, solar plants traditionally wash their solar panels, which uses scarce water supplies in South Africa’s drought-prone areas. Identifying this, Aries Solar Power decided to do away with panel washing and test how this affected power production – and the results have been very pleasing.

“Everyone assumes we wash the panels regularly, but we have discovered that rainfall is sufficient to wash the panels. Approximately 180 000 litres of water is saved each year through this initiative. At Aries Solar Power we haven’t washed panels in the last three years,” explains Schoeman.

Furthermore, Aries Solar Power currently has a water use license in place, however, due to the new approach to managing water consumption, the plant will be giving up this license. It has been found that the municipality supply is more than sufficient, as the plant only uses water for domestic office use now, and harvests its rainwater, so very small quantities of municipal water is required.

“We are of course also pleased that over the years the quality of the soil on the site is improving thanks to the shade that the solar panels provide, and that birdlife and other smaller creatures are happily co-existing on this solar farm,” concluded Schoeman.