“The main objective of this workshop was to introduce the basics of Photovoltaic technologies to the University of Venda postgraduate students. The workshop was based on the research theme which compares different Photovoltaic (PV) technologies performance for coastal and inland regions,” said the Physics HOD and Coordinator of Vuwani Science Resource Centre, Dr Eric Maluta. Dr Maluta said this words during the National Photovoltaic Workshop that took place on 12 and 13 April 2018 at University of Venda (Univen) Art Gallery.

Dr Maluta highlighted that this is a collaboration between the Univen’s Department of Physics, Nelson Mandela University, Eskom, CSIR and Vuwani Science Resource Centre. He further highlighted that this partnership gave birth to two PV stations, which are available at Vuwani Science Resource Centre. “This workshop also seeks to promote PV research to students and to empower communities with the findings from PV research, findings from both partnering universities.”

Dr Frederik Voster, Senior Lecturer at Nelson Mandela University who was one of the presenters said this workshop is important because most students will be empowered with knowledge. He said that this collaboration will bear the much needed fruits because it also transfer knowledge from one generation to another. “We are in this collaboration because we want to disseminate knowledge and to promote research in PV.

Photovoltaics are best known as methods for generating electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons by the photovoltaic effect. Solar cells produce direct current electricity from sunlight which can be used as power (electricity) or to recharge a battery. It is a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry.

A photo that shows the Solar Settlement, a sustainable housing community project is an example of PV solar system
(File) A photo showing Univen staff members at one of the PV Stations at Vuwani Science Resource Centre during the 2017 Vuwani National Science Week

A typical photovoltaic system employs solar panels, each comprising a number of solar cells, which generate electrical power. PV installations may be ground-mounted, rooftop mounted or wall mounted. The mount may be fixed, or use a solar tracker to follow the sun across the sky.

PV systems have the major disadvantage that the power output is dependent on direct sunlight, so about 10-25% is lost if a tracking system is not used, since the cell will not be directly facing the sun at all times. Dust, clouds, and other obstructions in the atmosphere also diminish the power output.

The Deputy Dean for the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Dr Simiso Moyo welcomed the presenters and advised postgraduate students to make use of this opportunity by grabbing as much information as possible because the workshop is meant to empower them.

Ms Fortunate IFE Elegbeleye, a PhD candidate at Univen, Department of Physics said that this workshop is quite educational because it has fostered a broader research scope for most postgraduate students who are in this field of study. She further expressed that the workshop exposed them to the manufacturing of the PV cells which is a global research field.

The presenters of the workshop touched on the topics of PV Cells and Modules: Defects, Degradation and Characterisation; Study of Potential Induced Degradation (PID) in Photovoltaic modules; PV Plant Characterisation and Risk Mitigation Strategies; Comparison of Performance and Degradation of Different PV Plant Configurations in Johannesburg, South Africa and PV Research at Nelson Mandela University.

Presenters from Nelson Mandela University, Physics postgraduate students, Univen staff members (Lecturers) posing for a group photo outside Univen Art Gallery

Issued by:
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 16 April 2018

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