Lonely Planet Writer

South Africa's first solar-powered airport will help reduce carbon footprint

George Airport has become the first airport in South Africa to run solely on solar power, making it only the second airport in the world to run on renewable energy. The small regional airport is located in George in the south of the country, and it now operates completely on energy generated by solar panels.

George Airport is the first solar-powered airport in South Africa. Image: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images
George Airport is the first solar-powered airport in South Africa. Image: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

The airport has 2000 solar panels that produce up to 750 kW every day, and these will allow check-in desks, baggage carousels and control towers to run on renewable energy. Actually, the remaining 350 kW will be used to supply over 250 local homes on the area – the town has only 150,000 residents.

The first airport in the world to run solely on solar power was Cochin International Airport in Kerala, India. This move towards a greener way to travel will hopefully go some way towards offsetting the significant carbon footprint left by our love of air travel. Approximately 700,000 passengers use 30-year-old George Airport every year, and it has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 1229 tonnes since it started testing the solar-powered system last year.

George Airport is the first solar-powered airport in South Africa. Image: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images
George Airport is the first solar-powered airport in South Africa. Image: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

As the weather in that area is unpredictable, George Airport has to occasionally switch back into the national power grid at night and on cloudy days, so airport authorities are looking to install batteries that will store the energy needed for those occasions, for the next phase of the project.

Airports Company South Africa is the operating firm in charge of this very worthwhile project, and it has announced its intention to achieve zero carbon emissions by the year 2030. Other airports in South Africa are looking at introducing similar systems, including Kimberley and Upington.