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A guesthouse in the remote Riemvasmaak conservancy area in the Northern Cape now has cost-effective access to water. This is thanks to a solar pump station developed by Nelson Mandela University’s Advanced Mechatronic Technology Centre, in collaboration with the merSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training).

Mechanical Engineering’s Prof Russel Phillips designed and tested the prototype for the solar pump station that can pump water to a head of 20m.

Thereafter mechanical engineering student, Zinzan Thorne, commissioned the equipment and the completed project was transported to Damas Guest House and Camping at Riemvasmaak.

The guesthouse, owned by Elisa Namases, has no electricity, and water has to be either carried to or pumped by means of a petrol pump from the Orange River to water tanks, some 200m from the riverbed.

The cost and availability of petrol at this remote site is a major challenge and resulted in the water being carried to the storage facilities (many days in temperatures exceeding 40°C).

Prof Phillips and Mechanical Engineering’s Karl du Preez assembled and installed the purpose-built portable module trolley and associated hardware at the guesthouse during the September recess.

Water can now be pumped on demand via this Solar driven system. A remote telemetry system, via a Three-Phase Solar Pump Controller (1.5kW 380V) with Wi-Fi connectivity, was also included, which will allow university researchers to monitor daily pumping yields and the health of the system from their offices in Port Elizabeth.

The efficiency, sustainability and return on investment of the hardware will now be determined over the next couple of months.

Ms Namases was very emotional and thankful when the installation was completed and said, “For the first time I can now start a vegetable garden and water my plants at the guest house. You do not understand what this system has done to improve our living conditions! For that, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Ms Namases will erect a fence around the equipment to protect it from roaming wild animals.

RESEARCH MAKING A DIFFERENCE … Mechanical Engineering’s Karl du Preez (left) and Prof Russel Phillips (right) together with Riemvasmaak guesthouse owner Elisa Namases where they assembled and installed the solar pump station.

Contact information
Mr Karl du Preez
Principal Lecturer
Tel: 27 41 504 3644