The School of Mechanical Engineering at the North-West University (NWU) is using their energy management expertise to assist schools through its Energy and Water project.
This project forms part of the faculty’s drive and passion to give back to the community. Volkskool in Potchefstroom, is already benefitting through this project.
According to Prof Martin van Eldik, the project was launched by Prof Willem den Heijer in response to the daily reality of electricity shortages and the ever-present threat of load shedding in South Africa.
“This, in conjunction with other factors, has led to a continuous and steep increase in the cost of electricity. Industries, businesses, and households are negatively affected by the increasing costs, which in turn affect their ability to maintain production levels, provide services and sustain their livelihoods,” says Prof Van Eldik.
Prof Van Eldik says the increasing cost of electricity also puts public schools’ ability to remain financially sustainable at risk.
“School fees and subsidies on which schools often depend does not increase at the same rate that the cost of electricity and energy in general increases. This results in substantial pressure on their annual budgets,” he adds.
More about the project The project entails comprehensive stakeholder engagement and energy audits to determine how, where and when energy is consumed. Systems that consume electricity are studied in conjunction with their operations and the need they address within a school.
Electricity bills and metering data are then used along with mathematical models to identify opportunities where electricity can be utilised more efficiently. The project focusses on utilising existing equipment and infrastructure more efficiently to minimize and potentially eliminate costly investment capital – which is often not available.
“We then make recommendations to stakeholders in terms of the potential electricity and cost savings. The implementation of these measures will then depend on the required intervention(s) and the resources needed. A similar path is followed in terms of water resources,” says Prof Van Eldik.
He says the engagement that follows from this project not only gives stakeholders access to expertise and resources, but also benefits fourth-year engineering students who are actively involved.”
“It is our vision to expand this engagement to more schools within our community, thereby growing the knowledge and abilities of our engineering students in the field of energy management while giving back to our community and environment,” Prof Van Eldik adds.