Story highlights George Airport (GRJ) is Africa’s first solar powered airport

Located in South Africa, it gets 41% of its energy from solar panels

(CNN)South Africa has ramped up its green credentials by unveiling the continent’s first solar-powered airport.

Located halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, George Airport will meet 41% of its energy demand from a brand new 200 square meter solar power plant built on its grounds. The facility, which was officially launched last week, has 3,000 photovoltaic modules, and will gradually increase capacity to deliver 750Kw power when it reaches full production.

It cost just over a million dollars to build, and is part of South Africa’s commitment to introduce a mix of energy sources to all its airports.

South Africa’s George Airport becomes the continent’s first solar-powered airport
— This Is Africa (@ThisIsAfricaTIA) March 1, 2016

“As an airports management company running nine airports nationally, part of our strategic objective is to minimize our environmental impact,” Skhumbuzo Macozoma, chairman of the Airports Company South Africa Board said in a statement.

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#GeorgeAirport plant provides 41% daily energy demand. The airport is off power grid during the day, on at night. NM
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 26, 2016

“Harnessing solar power is a viable cleaner energy source which contributes towards diversifying the energy mix. This plant will ensure that the airport is self-sustaining in terms of its power needs, and will eventually extend to the broader community within the George municipality,” he added. The airport serves the Western Cape town of George which lies in the heart of the scenic Garden Route, famous for its lush vegetation and lagoons which are dotted along the landscape.

It handles over 600,000 passengers a year, many of them tourists, but it’s also a national distribution hub for cargo such as flowers, fish, oysters, herbs and ferns.

The Geoge Airport is located along South Africa’s Garden Route, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The clean energy initiative follows in the footsteps of India’s Cochin International airport — the world’s first entirely solar powered airport, and Galapagos Ecological Airport, built in 2012 to run solely on Sun and wind power.
The George Airport project is the latest in the string of alternative energy investments designed to help relieve the burden of irregular electricity supply, which has long plagued parts of Africa.

Access to electricity across Africa is rising

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Access to electricity across Africa is rising 00:56

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Around 635 million people, or 57% of the population, are estimated to live without power on the continent, with that number climbing to 68% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, a UK start-up collaborated with Shell to build a solar-powered soccer pitch in the Nigerian city of Lagos, but governments are also increasingly harnessing the Sun’s energy for major infrastructure projects.

Last month, Morocco switched on what will be the world’s largest concentrated solar plant when it’s completed. It is predicted to power one million homes by 2018. In Rwanda, a $23.7 million solar plant has increased the country’s generation capacity by 6% and lighting up 15,000 homes.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
With a background in engineering, Mutoba Ngoma founded Tapera Industries in 2006 and has since discovered recycled oil can be used for more than alternative energy.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
Tapera converts used vegetable oil into fuel that powers cars and machinery.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
Going green – But Ngoma is not the only businessman trying to find a sustainable solution to Africa’s energy crisis. Ghanaian inventor, Apostle Safo, is building SUVs with electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
The “Kiira EV” was the first electric car built in Uganda. The project, which was mostly run by students, launched a proof of concept in 2011 and plans to produce its first commercial car by 2018.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
Solar potential – In a much larger project, renewable energy firm SolarReserve has 238 megawatts (MW) of solar projects in construction in South Africa, including the Jasper Power Project, which has Google as an investor. Pictured here, the company’s 75 MW Lesedi project near Kimberly.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
In Ethiopia, the Grand Renaissance Dam is under construction on the Blue Nile River. It is claimed it will generate 6,000 MWs of energy when completed.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
Rift Valley wind – Also in the east African nation, the Ashegoda Wind Farm, completed in 2013.

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8 photos: Africa’s alternative energy revolution
Wind power – The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, situated on the banks of the largest desert lake in the world, aims to provide 300 MW of energy, equivalent to roughly 20% of the current capacity of Kenya’s national grid.

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Source: The airport that runs on solar power