A big field of solar panels in a solar park in Africa under construction on red soil
One of the largest solar parks in the country will be built in South Africa by July 2020

Costing around 100 million euros and almost 400 kilometres west of Johannesburg, one of the largest
solar units in South Africa will be built on the 150-hectare site by July 2020. At times, up to 400
workers are working on construction at the same time. It’s an adventure and a back-breaking job.
Workers describe how the roaring of hungry lions in an adjacent breeding station can be heard in the
morning. The sun beats down mercilessly in the afternoon; snakes, scorpions and ticks lurk on the
ground. Again and again, small sand cyclones move over the plant and give a taste of the harsh
conditions that the solar park will have to withstand on a continual basis after commissioning. The
solar panels (each 1.90 metres by 1.10 metres in size) will soon be installed. 262,000 of them equate
to an area of almost 550,000 square metres. This is equivalent to 135 football pitches. The plant’s
output is 86 megawatts and the electricity is fed into the public network. This is enough to supply
15,000 households in South Africa with electricity.

 

2.3 million metres of cable

The site of the solar park is on a slight gradient. A sophisticated sensor system will later control
motors that can compensate for this – and can do even more. The angle of the solar panels is altered
depending on the position of the sun. In the morning, the collectors are aligned at a 30-degree angle
to the east. In the evenings, they’re at 30 degrees again, but this time to the west. Re-adjustment is
carried out continuously. Always facing the sun. The more technology is used, the more powerful the
cables and connection solutions need to be. Around 2.3 million metres of LAPP cables are installed
here. A total of 36 different products are used.

Most of them are not supplied directly to the construction site by LAPP, but rather through
HellermannTyton, the customer who has opened the door to the solar industry wide for LAPP. It’s an
industry that has also become an important growth market for one of the biggest producers of
electrical cable connections and components in the world. HellermannTyton is active in 39 countries
and employs 5,000 workers. “We have a very special relationship with LAPP,” explains Claude
Middleton, Managing Director of HellermannTyton South Africa. “Their cables and connection
solutions help to make our products higher quality and therefore unique.”

The cable protection hose SILVYN® EMC AS-CU is a symbol of the partnership between the two
companies; this partnership has stepped up over the past two years in connection with the
construction of solar parks.

The protective hose with a diameter of 17 millimetres consists of a metal helix which, thanks to the
profiles that hook onto one another, is extremely flexible yet very resistant to external forces and
mechanical movements, making it ideal to protect the solar and motor cables installed inside. They
connect control boxes, each of which are 80 centimetres wide, 60 centimetres high and 30
centimetres deep and are made of steel plate, with motors and sensors. They’re little boxes of
mystery, because what they contain is strictly secret. On average, 250 components are installed
inside them to form a kind of “brain” that controls the plant intelligently later, and therefore also guarantees efficiency. The most important quality criterion for the SILVYN® EMC AS-CU is optimum protection against electromagnetic interference.

In an extreme case, this could paralyse the entire park. “I’m not scared of many things, but I wouldn’t want to be at a solar park like that when the thunder and lightning hit during a summer storm,” Middleton explains. The control technology in the distributors would not withstand the overvoltage that then briefly occurs. The SILVYN® MSK-M BRUSH nickel-plated brass conduit fittings from LAPP have hundreds of fine copper wires that ensure optimum 360-degree shielding and therefore keep unwanted overvoltages away from the inside of the boxes. “When we looked around on the market, we couldn’t find anything comparable. We construct high-quality components for the solar industry and, for this, we need the level of quality that the connection solutions from LAPP provide.”

Three construction workers are talking in front of cable spools in bright sunlight
Planning for the future: Alan Mulder (right) and Ayanda Dayimani from LAPP find out information on site about when which cables will be required

Maximum possible service

HellermannTyton builds customised control boxes for each project. By hand. It is a detailed job that
requires the utmost precision at every stage. “In the end, the customer receives a product that is
tailored specifically to their needs; they simply have to connect it as with a plug-and-play solution
from the IT industry – and it works.”

Product quality is one thing, service and consulting are a completely different matter. When Chad
Andrews, Managing Director of LAPP Southern Africa, learns that HellermannTyton requires larger
connections for another test project, straight away he assures them that they will be able to provide
six SKINTOP® ST-M cable glands with a diameter of 50 millimetres.

Middleton appreciates the commitment. “There’s a huge risk that you forget something when you
are constructing such a big plant,” says the Managing Director. “We always feel that we are getting
the maximum possible service.” The SILVYN® EMC AS-CU has recently been supplied in longer
lengths, reducing the waste for HellermannTyton in subsequent processing. The mutual exchange of
information with the aim of continuously optimising the product and processes is what is behind this
measure.

 

 

If you would like to find out what solutions we have to offer for your industry, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Four construction workers are talking in front of a solar park under construction
One of the largest solar parks in the country will be built in South Africa by July 2020