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Photovoltaic modules are gaining popularity in South Africa, with around 200 000 households making use of this technology (e.g. lighting, television, telecommunications). At present, the solar modules are expensive, although their cost has been steadily declining. The major drawback for solar generated electricity is that it is difficult to store. For off-grid systems, current storage technologies require significant running costs (due to their limited life). However, new technologies such as super capacitors, flywheels and fuel cells, as well as improved chemical batteries, are expected to reduce storage costs significantly. Currently grid-connected applications are the main international market for PV technology. In this case, the ‘grid-system’ can be used as storage along with distributed storage options and pumped storage systems.

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Solar thermal electric technologies use the sun’s heat to drive either conventional steam turbine drive power plants, or to power more unusual engines such as the Stirling engine. Solar thermal electrics have an advantage in that single plants can be built on a multi-megawatt to gigawatt scale. There is also some potential for energy storage in thermal energy stores (e.g. molten salt). This allows some solar thermal plants to run well into the evening, or even 24 hours a day. Gas hybridisation options are also practical.


Solar water heaters, process heaters, space heating systems and even solar cookers are all currently used in South Africa. The water heater market in particular shows significant signs of maturity and growth potential. However, as a country, South Africa is behind best practice norms with regards to utilising this resource.

According to the Australian Greenhouse Office website
"For most households, hot water is the largest energy cost and cause of greenhouse gas emissions."

Solar and heat pump water heaters use much less energy and therefore produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than electric conventional water heaters.