MTN SA Launch Africa's First Solar Cooling System

MTN South Africa has unveiled the continent's first ever concentrating solar cooling system to power the firm's data centres.

"MTN is acutely aware of the impact of global warming and its adverse impact on emerging markets including South Africa. We continuously explore ways in which we can not only reduce our carbon footprint, but it will substantially reduce our electricity consumption which will release additional capacity for the national grid," Zunaid Bulbulia, MTN South Africa CEO.

The cooling system, which is based in MTN's head office in Johannesburg, is driven by Linear Fresnel Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology, which uses heat generated from the sun and has a peak cooling capacity of 330 kilowatts.

It also consists of 242 solar mirrors that cover a total area of 484 square metres which track the sun to generate pressurised hot water at 180 degrees Celsius. The mirrors move into a self-cleaning position when it rains, and turn down into a protective stow position on cloudy days. The hot water then powers an absorption chiller that produces chilled water circulated into the data centre for the cooling of IT equipment.

The parties involved in designing the cooling system include REACH Renewable, AOS Consulting Engineers, Industrial Solar and Voltas Technologies, among others.

In 2010, MTN revealed South Africa's first tri-generation methane-powered plant to electrify a new building housing a data centre and a test switch centre.

Olu Soluade, managing director of AOS Consulting Engineers, explained that the cooling system was one step towards businesses becoming more environmentally conscious of their operations. "The development of sustainable solutions and the implementation of technologies for the benefit of mankind is the prerogative of all of us. The continuous commitment to the reduction of our carbon footprint is the hallmark of sustainable development administered by professionals," said Soluade.

Similarly, Cristian Cernat, managing director of Voltas Technologies, added that the cooling system and its innovation can extend beyond renewable energy and into making a broader economic contribution. "The opportunity to model and design the installation using a high temperature heat source, architectonically integrated, creates a real opportunity for local manufacturing and future jobs creation in the field of renewable energy equipment production in our country."