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Solar energy buses in South AfricaLately, pollution throughout the world has risen due to the effects of climate change, fossil fuels and the emittance of a handful of harmful chemicals in order for different countries to keep running. Ever since the late 1990s, renewable energy use on the African continent has been dropping, moving from a high of 74% in 1994 to 70% in 2015. Even in more prominent countries like Ghana, the 2015 rate was at a relatively small 41%. Some countries barely creep over 1%.

In the days of a global pandemic and climate change creeping up on the world, the need to utilize more natural forms of energy to power the world has become preeminent. And in South Africa, major steps are being taken, starting with their public transportation using clean energy buses.

Where Golden Arrow Comes In

In July 2021, Golden Arrow, one of the major organizations that provide public transportation for people in Cape Town, South Africa, has put out two fully electric buses to help transport individuals without using types of energy that are harmful to the air and to the world as a whole. According to IT News Africa, Golden Arrow began its renewable energy project back in 2016, and this project is in collaboration with the bus company, the city of Cape Town and New Southern Energy, a construction company based in South Africa that helps make solar energy products.

These clean energy buses in South Africa are expected to be run from Retreat all the way to Cape Town, which will be very convenient for people in the area due to the collapse of train services in the metro ran by MetroRail.

Due to this collapse of services, caused by poor conditions, looting and attacks from civilians, many people that worked for MetroRail have lost their jobs in an area where unemployment is already at an all-time high. The French Agency of Development (AFD), highlights that young people represent more than half of the unemployed population in Africa, or 60% to be exact. However, Golden Arrow has increased its services recently around the time these buses were introduced, so for some people in search of a job, bus operations might alleviate unemployment.

Launching the Effort

The program of launching these vehicles, according to IT News Africa, did not involve the vehicles themselves; it started from the ground up. Golden Arrow installed a small solar-powered system in one of its main vehicle depots in Epping, a small town within Cape Town. Then, in the next two phases of the program, it expanded its solar power capabilities by installing 2,500 panels at its Multimech stop. Then, with the success of these solar systems, it was time to test it out on the buses.

Two types of tests were done with the clean energy buses in South Africa, according to Techinafrica. One bus was completely empty, and the other had sandbags filled in the bus that simulated the weights of different passengers — 44 of them to be exact. For a few months, the team at Golden Arrow has been running those tests, becoming excited with the progress being made as Gideon Neethling, an engineer for Golden Arrow, stated, “Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”

Considering the Future

According to Oxfam, an estimated 633 million people in Africa are living without access to electricity, and almost 800 million people are cooking food with old cookstoves, which is deemed not safe. With renewable energy use on a decline in Africa, these clean energy buses in South Africa stand to positively benefit the country and the continent as a whole. Golden Arrow can transport its 250,000 passengers every day, employ some of them to launch these solar-powered buses and then continue to add more buses to its network. Thanks to Golden Arrow, Africa is better poised to fight harmful energy, add new jobs and fight poverty within the continent.

– Matt Orth
Photo: Unsplash