The Northern Cape currently houses the lion’s share of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme, with a total of 48 out of the 93 awarded projects situated in this province. Engineering students, who will feed these projects, are benefiting from a recently launched scholarship programme, the Renewable Energy Scholarship Fund (RESF), which has seen well over two million rand invested to develop young engineering students, studying mechatronics.
This programme is funded by three renewable energy companies, two of which are based in the Northern Cape; namely, Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power. “We initiated the scholarship to help meet the demand within the industry for qualified engineers,” explained Mark Pickering, General Manager of Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power.
These students are currently studying mechatronics at universities that offer this engineering discipline, including Tshwane University of Technology, University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Neldi Kgoadi, one of the 25 scholarship beneficiaries chosen out of 150 applicants, said: “What interests me the most about the renewable energy sector are the advancements that have been made to generate electricity – one of the most precious commodities – without leaving any carbon footprints. I would like to change people’s lives through my work, whilst discovering new frontiers in this field.”
This scholarship programme enables aspirant engineers from around the country to acquire the qualifications and skills demanded by this budding sector, particularly in the field of mechatronics – an inter-disciplinary field, combining traditional electrical, electronic, mechanical, control and computer engineering skills. The two million rand invested in the programme covers tuition, daily living expenses and learning expenses such as books and materials.
According to Pickering, “The recent announcement by the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, concerning the addition of 6300MW to the Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme, means that there will be an increasing need for qualified specialist engineers now and into the future.”
In addition to this, some of the students will have the opportunity to apply what they have learnt through a 12-month on site internship as the scholarship includes a service obligation. The next round for scholarships will be made available through the identified universities in September 2015 for students from their second year of mechatronic studies.
“With the growing demand for electricity in South Africa and on the continent, we would like to play our part in helping to provide more qualified and skilled engineers as well as benefitting students from our local communities,” concluded Pickering.