South African power company Eskom recently installed solar hot water heaters on the roofs of homes in Port Elizabeth to provide residents with access to hot water while relieving stress on the national energy grid. Traditionally, families have had to use gas or dangerous paraffin stoves to heat water, but Eskom’s solar power initiative has shown the benefits of renewable energy in the country. The company plans to install one million solar water heaters throughout South Africa by 2015.

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Speaking to PhysOrg about the water heaters, also known as geysers, a local said, “I don’t know much about though or environmental stuff. The geysers use the sun to heat up the water. My electricity is not affected and I have even stopped using my paraffin stove as it was dangerous.”

Eskom provides a small allowance of free electricity to low-income South Africans that allows them to keep the lights on – but it’s not enough to heat water for regular bathing or cleaning. It is hoped that the solar heaters will reduce the use of paraffin stoves, which are the leading cause of home fires and can be lethal in crowded neighbourhoods.

The company is offering 110-liter for free in township homes. Wealthier families that need larger volumes of water can receive a subsidy to encourage them to switch to solar. “Eskom and government’s joint objective is to save energy and to encourage the use of renewable energy, as well as to provide relief to low-income households,” said Eskom spokeswoman Hillary Joffe. The company has so far spent 340 million rands ($49 million, or 35 million euros) on the rebate program, which is reported to have reduced the demand for electricity by 22 megawatts.

+ Eskom

Via PhysOrg

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