SA to explore use of renewable energy for SKA

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cape Town - South Africa is to explore ways in which green energy can be used to operate the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.

The SKA will require energy for data collection and processing and it is hoped that the pathfinder telescopes being developed by South Africa and Australia will give impetus to the world's pursuit of further alternatives to fossil-based energy.

Officially unveiling the 2009 International SKA Forum in Cape Town on Wednesday, Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena said: "South Africa is extensively involved in renewable energy research, and we will be looking at methods to use green energy for the telescope."

The forum provides an opportunity to reflect on what South Africa has achieved as well as consider the challenges that lie ahead in the production of the world's most powerful telescope.

The SKA will be the biggest telescope in the world and will enable South African scientists to conduct breakthrough science. Presently, South Africa and Australia are the only two countries short listed to host the SKA, which will be the largest radio telescope in the world and it will be located in the Northern Cape.

Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Namibia are South Africa's partners in the bid whose outcome will be announced in 2011.

It will not be the first time South Africa has been an innovator in the use of green energy - last year the South African electric car, the Joule, was launched at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.

With backing from the department, Cape Town-based Optimal Energy developed the car.

"The development of this car is further evidence of South Africa's collective effort to seek engineering and technological breakthroughs to support global initiatives in responsible development," said the minister.

He added that the department was making a significant contribution to South Africa's efforts for developing environmentally friendly energy research.

South Africa possess an almost pristine environment for radio and optical astronomy.

The Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act, which will be used to establish astronomy reserves in the Northern Cape, will ensure that investments in astronomy facilities are protected.

The SKA is a $1 billion international project to create a receiving surface of a million square metres, one hundred times larger than the biggest receiving surface in existence presently.

It is hoped that the telescope will be completed in 2020.