Harare Institute of Technology’s (HIT) halls of residence are soon to have hot water on tap, thanks to a solar water-heating project that will see the technology installed throughout the institution.
Munacho Mutezo, deputy minister of energy and power development, recently handed over the system to HIT, the first of its kind in the country.
The project, funded by the government of the Republic of South Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency, aims to install 1,300 litre solar hot-water systems in the college’s halls of residence.
Zimbabwe lies in one of the best solar radiation belts in the world, with up to 300 days of sunshine per year.
“However, this resource is currently undervalued,” noted the minister, adding, “Using solar for water heating results in huge electricity and energy savings through replacement of expensive energy sources such as electricity and coal.” He says that studies have shown that solar water heaters reduce energy consumption in households or institutions by as much as 40%.
The integrated system is composed of three parts (solar panels, an energy pack and a solar storage tank) that work together to meet the demand for hot water, while the existing water heater will provide a secondary heating source.
Solar water heating does not affect the quality or the availability of the hot water. The systems provide a clean, cost-effective way to reduce water-heating costs, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Engineer Quinton Kanhukamwe, vice chancellor of the college, was over the moon about the developments, saying it placed HIT at the epicenter of technology development in the country.
“We are thrilled to be associated with a project which is designed to exploit renewable energy in tandem with the national thrust of reducing dependency on exhaustible sources of energy. Let me assure all our stakeholders that HIT will take good care of this project,” he enthused.
The installation of the system comes at a time when the country is pushing for the exploitation of renewable energy to meet national energy demands.
“This project will drastically reduce our electricity bill and the savings realised from this project will be deployed to other critical areas. For us at HIT, this project will link well with our Renewable Energy Research Unit. HIT is aggressively pursuing applied research that will result in the development of renewable energy resources technologies with a national impact,” said Kanhukamwe.
In this regard, the government is looking at a plan to install Solar Energy Generation plants to feed into the national grid on a ‘produce and consume’ basis. Kanhukamwe said this is a pilot project to see how solar thermal energy can fit into the grid. Solar thermal energy can also be used to heat showers in dorms or heat water for dishwashing in the dining halls on campus.
“The water heaters will produce more energy in the summer than in the winter,” says Philip Hove, a second year engineering student at HIT, who has been following the project closely. “However, we can use diffused light, so clouds will not block the light from getting to the collectors.”
The students are very excited about the development as the issue of power shortages has been affecting their work. “Especially in winter when the water can be chilling!” says a student who has been at the college for the last two years.
Caption: Part of the expanse of solar panels that have been installed at the Institute. Credit: Luckie Aaroni