Recently three masters students from the Energy Research Centre (ERC) attended the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Postgraduate Symposium (REPS) which was partly funded by the by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), through the National Research Foundation (NRF). REPS has taken place annually for the past 6 years, with all prior symposiums held at Stellenbosch University. This year, however, it took place at the University of Fort Hare which was also celebrating its centenary.
The main aim of the symposium was to bring together Masters and PhD students from campuses across South Africa to share, discuss and critique research in the renewable energy space. In total, 91 students attended from 16 universities across the country. The programme began with a welcome dinner on Sunday 4th September at the University of Fort Hare which provided an opportunity for cordial interaction amongst students, lecturers and the organizing committee. The delegate presentations took place on the 5th and 6th of September where students and researchers from various universities and research institutions presented their research in the renewable energy field.
Each day started with interesting key note speakers – ranging from academia, government departments, University of Fort Hare representatives and industry. Of particular note was Prof Wikus van Niekerk, from CRSES, Stellenbosch, he gave two presentations: one on the overview of renewable energy resources and projects in South Africa, and another on renewable energy degree studies. Mr Alistair McMaster gave an insightful presentation on the Province of Eastern Cape Sustainable Energy Strategy. Dr Presha Ramsarup also gave an interesting presentation on Green Skills Development through Employer Lead Demand – with an urgent call-to-action to ensure that employment targets are achieved in the green economy.
The symposium was designed in such a way to have cross-cutting renewable energy presentations over multiple sessions held in parallel, where students presenting were judged, with the best presentations in each category winning prizes at the end of the symposium. There were a range of oral and poster presentations covering: solar PV, solar CSP, wind, biomass, biofuels, CO2 capture, hydrogen storage and some energy policy and resources. A small exhibition showcased companies such as: GeoSun, BOSCH Holdings, ENGEN, SANEDI, DST, and others.
The three masters delegates from ERC, UCT were Bothokgami Mokone (1st year), Doreen Kanetey-Essel (2nd year) and Jigisha Mandalia (2nd year). Doreen presented her research on urban residential rooftop solar PV systems as a potential solution to power shortages in Ghana. Jigisha presented a poster detailing her research on into the decision-making process involved in sustainable buildings at the University of Cape Town.
The symposium was a great space to meet other students, to network and socialise. We met three masters students researching wind turbines from the Electrical Engineering department at UCT who we otherwise would not have met – even though they are only one floor below us in the Menzies building! This shows the need for better collaboration between departments, as well as between universities and other research institutions. Many of the presentations were quite technical and detailed, as they were mostly by engineers. Nevertheless, it was a good place to learn, question and for some to critique.
We were housed in a beautiful chalet in Hogsback, and during the spare time we had, we were able to appreciate the woodlands, take part in nature walks and some even went for a hike! It added an interesting and refreshing element to the busy symposium activities.
Overall we appreciated the exposure to the interesting and innovative research being conducted across South Africa. One can tell that the renewable energy field is steadily expanding and there is demand for various types of research from industry and government. It is important to ensure that this research now gets translated into positive and practical solutions to ultimately help transition South Africa towards a more sustainable energy pathway, economy and future.
Written by Doreen Kanetey-Essel and Jigisha Mandalia