CSIR solar photovoltaic power plant

The solar array consists of a total of 1 800 PV modules with a total surface of 3 493 m2. The power that is generated feeds directly into the CSIR’s campus grid, therefore, no energy storage is needed. It provides around 4% of the energy needs of the CSIR’s Pretoria campus, the equivalent of the electricity needed to power 200 middle-income households in South Africa.

The module array is controlled by a 558 kWp ground-mounted single-axis solar tracker that allows the modules to tilt and follow the movement of the sun from east to west. This tracking system is generally more expensive to install and maintain, but has a higher energy yield as compared to a fixed-tilt system. The CSIR’s 1-axis tracking PV facility is the first of its kind in the country with a 100% South African designed and made tracking system and substructure.

For research purposes, the arrays have been divided into different blocks to assess the impact of dust and dirt build-up on power yield over time. Some of the modules can be routinely cleaned, while others are left uncleaned. The purpose is to derive a cost-optimal operational plan for the cleaning of the modules. Researchers will analyse the operational performance of a 558 kWp ground-mounted single-axis tracker solar PV system with regards to the solar gain compared to a fixed-tilt installation and to prepare the grounds for a subsequent development of a tracking model that will optimise the energy yield.

The facility will also be used to train PV engineers and technicians. The solar power generated by the facility will equate to an annual carbon dioxide saving of approximately 1 200 tons, which will significantly reduce the CSIR’s carbon footprint. The plant has an expected lifetime of at least 25 years.

For more information, contact:

Mhlengi Dlamini
Email: medlamini@csir.co.za


Dr Mkhulu Mathe
Email: kmathe@csir.co.za


Solar PV testing lab

Contact Person

Lawrence Pratt

Technical Specifications


Installed DC capacity: 558 kWp Installed AC capacity: 480 kVA Project annual energy yield: approx.1 170 000 kWh/ year Pollutants prevented: approx.1150 tons CO2 per year Number of modules: 1 800 Tracking system: 1 × 22 rows with 2 × 20 modules 1 × 23 rows with 2 × 20 modules (all portrait orientation) contour + single axis tracker

Key Concept

PV systems generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons. These systems use solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing PV material. These cells are made from semi-conductor materials that are able to release electrons when exposed to solar radiation. The electrons from many cells are gathered together through conductors to make up the generation capacity of one module and many modules can be connected together to produce power in vast quantities.