The first seminar co-hosted by ELPA (The Earthing and Lightning Protection Association) and AREP (Association for Renewable Energy Practitioners) showed great support from industry with numerous sponsors, knowledgeable presenters and more than 150 candidates attending both the Johannesburg and Western Cape Seminars.

Solar PV plants are subjected to surges and exposed equipment may be vulnerable if not properly protected. Due to the growing concern around the protection of solar PV related equipment, two seminars were arranged in order to inform industry on the importance, processes and available methods to protect equipment and human life. The intention of the seminars were to share information with industry on the design, installation and risk analysis for Lightning, earthing and surge protection systems for solar PV plants.

The first commercially operated floating solar PV system on the continent producing 60kW of power and Installed by New Southern Energy (NSE) on the Marlenique farm’s dam, made the farm, the ideal venue for a surge protection event focusing on solar PV Plants.
Read more about the floating solar system at Marlenique here. –

Marlenique estate was chosen as venue for the Western Cape Seminar and The Midrand Conference centre was home for the Gauteng leg of presentations.

Key-note address for both events were given by Carel Ballack, (president of AREP) highlighting statistics that affirmed the growth of renewable energies in South Africa, the number of products available locally as well as an estimate to the number of installers in South Africa. During the presentation, many other aspects covered, confirmed solar PV as being an important contributor to the future of energy security solutions. Building a sustainable energy sector could only be realized if driven by industry and therefore it was important to unite as a sector in order to ensure adequate standards were implemented.

NSE (Chief Technical Officer), Ryno Jordaan gave a run down of the floating solar plant’s design and installation.

Alexis Barwise presented on effective and safe lightning protection system design with many important parameters that needed to be taken into account. Case studies across South Africa were discussed and examples given of how the process behind design could be simplified.

Nick Roche of Rubicon focused on surge protection for communication devices by highlighting how complex solar PV plants have become owing to control and monitoring devices.

Gary Thoresson of Testing Guys gave presentations on early warning system devices raising alarms due to changing atmospheric conditions. A lightning prediction system determines when atmospheric conditions are likely to produce lightning strikes and sounds an alarm, warning those nearby that lightning is imminent before a storm arrives in a specific region.

Dr Pieter H Pretorius detailed factors of the SANS and IEC standards and how risk analysis could be interpreted and understood when designing lightning protection systems for solar PV plants. A detailed breakdown was given of what risk was and the purpose or outcome of what the risk analysis aimed to achieve by considering the number of lightning strikes in a given area, the probability of damage and amount of loss.

Prof. Chandima Gomes of Wits University shared experience gained through his international exposure with surge protection and presented a lecturer’s rendition of forward and reverse bias for solar module circuits. He highlighted how solar PV circuits could be damaged by lightning strikes when not adequately protected by surge and lightning protection devices.

Johan Hoolsema from Expert System Solutions presented on Lightning Avoidance Systems as well as giving account and historic information on ESS as an organization. Interesting information was shared on case studies relating to Lightning Avoidance systems.

The day ended in Cape Town with a panel discussion where the Director Jake (Jacob) Malatse – Head of the Department of Labour (DoL) Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Directorate fielded important questions and affirmed the drive of the Department of Labour to engage with industry on matters related to regulations and enforcement of standards. In JHB a similar panel discussion included Pieter Laubscher and Patrick Mmapheto both from the Department of Labour and John Dlamini from the SABS. Discussions raised around the requirements in order to operate as an electrical contractor drew interest from attendees and the SABS and DOL representatives responded accordingly.

Sponsors involved with the event included the following:

  • HHK
  • CDAA
  • Rubicon
  • E-S-S
  • Testing Guys
  • DEHN-Africa
  • O-line
  • PQRS
  • LPC
  • Terratech

We would like to thank all sponsors and candidates attending the events in JHB and Cape Town and look forward to hosting more information seminars with the intention of promoting renewable energy off-take in South Africa.