The keynote speakers at the Renewable Energy Postgraduate Symposium (REPS) held at Stellenbosch University on 17 and 18 July emphasized the need for relevant, perhaps even bankable research. “Academic research needs to come out of the lab and onto commercial spaces,” said Mr. Cebo Silinga as he presented instruments from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) designed to accomplish just that.
Mr. De Wet from Innovus, expanded on this sentiment, inviting students to use this Stellenbosch University based institution to apply for patents and “take their research to the market”. Interactions with the audience in their sessions highlighted the need to find a balance between commercializing tech-research versus publishing in academic journals.
Ms Kubeshni Bughwadin from Eskom gave a macro view suggesting that Renewable Energy was a key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The ensuing robust engagements with her presentation brought to the fore an underlying concern by students as to the readiness of the African continent for the pace and nature of change. “We need to decide whether we are leaders of quick followers” was the challenge Ms Bughwadin left for the students to mull over.
Scatec’s Abri Stegmamn allowed the students to peek into the future, and see a different set of challenges they may face after their studies. He presented “The design and construction challenges of utility scale PV plants” in which he gave actual examples of having to build under difficult locations and environments. These include swamp land, desserts, thick jungle, monsoon areas, regions with heavy snowfall and sub zero temperatures as well as remote areas with a weak grid.
The 10th REPS hosted by the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) and held simultaneously with the 6th annual STERG Symposium was thus in full swing. The symposium is a CRSES annual event in which post graduate students conducting their research in the renewable energy fields are afforded the opportunity to present their research to their peers. This provides them with a less intimidating environment in which they freely share their research.
Students who presented came from various universities including Stellenbosch University, University of the Free State, University of Cape Town, Vaal University of Technology, University of Pretoria, University of Fort Hare and University of Zululand.
It was encouraging to see the visible increase in the number of female presenters.
The CRSES acts as a point of entry into Stellenbosch University for the general field of renewable energy.
Presentations, as well as the full programme, are published in the symposium proceedings, which is available on the Centre’s website.