The DUT Energy Technology Station, known as “KZN Industrial Energy Efficient Training and Resource Centre (IEETR)”, has been established as one of many technology stations based within South African Universities. The energy technology station was created in July 2012 and is funded by TIA (Technology Innovation Agency) to respond to the need for awareness, innovation, development, empowerment, research and technology, and provides subsidized services in energy efficiency and energy projects within KZN. A key focus area of the technology station is to assist SMEs, commercial and industry in the field of energy. It also focuses on community engagement projects and training in energy.
To facilitate the production of technology and services in energy efficiency and renewable & sustainable energy, research is being conducted in the following areas, viz: Solar Thermal, Solar Photovoltaics, Wind and Photovoltaic Hybrid Systems, Energy Management Systems, Biogas, Gasification and Building Energy. Some of the facilities available for research and innovation is a sun tracker weather station, a radiation and monitoring laboratory as well as its newly established Thin Film Solar Research Laboratory, where solar cells are fabricated. The centre has masters and doctoral students conducting research studies in various energy focus areas.
The technology station engages with a number of key energy role-players as well as private, industrial and student partners in the research and development of innovative energy projects. The technology station sources funds for the prototyping, research and development and implements these innovative projects with the aim of commercializing, resulting in creating entrepreneurship opportunities for their clients.
The IEETR Centre recently established an accredited energy training centre to serve the needs of industry and provides certified skills training courses. It offers both contact as well as online energy training courses, which is a first in South Africa.
The technology stations involvement in community engagement projects includes the ongoing electrification of rural schools using renewable energy systems, the installation and research monitoring of photovoltaic rooftop systems and its ‘energyDRIVE energy awareness project. This unique innovative community engagement energyDRIVE project is in keeping with the DUT’s strategy of building sustainable student communities of living and learning and takes on the form of a roadshow involving participation from students and interns. Students were tasked with the development of laboratory-based exhibition energy units. The project addresses pertinent national issues in terms of skills and technology transfer, entrepreneurial development and commercialization. The campaign promotes, advances and develops public awareness of alternative energy and energy efficiency.
Awareness of DUT skills and training programs are promoted with special focus on the engineering and science fields, which emphasises the current need in South Africa for specialized skilled labour. The potential is there to make a significant impact on the lives of over 100 000 scholars. The project has already drawn significant response and interest from the corporate sector and there is further scope in terms of its Corporate Social Investments (CSI) strategy. The project will ultimately contribute towards efforts to combat unemployment, and support for people living in poorer areas.