16 May 2011

Solar panels in motion! Sunny skies for our Outreach van

Katja Rockstroh
Outreach teacher Thabo Sabeko

The Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre receives up to 50 000 school children annually. These children experience the Aquarium either by taking part in a self-guided tour through the Aquarium, or through a hands-on activity experience in one of the Discovery Centres. 

The Environmental Education Centre strives to provide each child that visits the Aquarium with an unforgettable experience that will leave him or her with a sense of respect for the environment as well as a change in attitude towards nature and their role in protecting our environmental heritage. 

But what about children who live in areas with sparse resources and who attend schools with little or no funding for school outings? Through the innovation and dedication of our Environmental Education Centre, we are able to take the sea to them! 

Our Outreach: Oceans in Motion van, kindly sponsored by GrandWest Corporate Social Investment, is fully equipped with systems that provide life support to a variety of animals. The colourful van’s visits to schools allow children to meet and touch some of the marine invertebrates found around the Cape coast, as well as learn more about the environment they are found in and the human impact on marine life.

The solar panel installation

Our staff have visited numerous schools in and around Cape Town, and have also ventured as far as the Overberg region and the West Coast.

Here at the Two Oceans Aquarium we are very conscious of our carbon footprint and our environmental impact. To this end, when new equipment is sourced, first prize is always to make use of the most sustainable option available. The Outreach van provided the perfect opportunity to put this into practice. 

Martin Pollack of Treetops Renewable Energy Systems designed a tailor-made system specifically for the Outreach van. The system was designed to meet all the equipment requirements and still function in the most sustainable and effective way. Previously, the van had to be plugged into the electricity grid to charge the batteries, which in turn ran the life-support equipment and systems.

After a complete overhaul, the van now sports solar panels on its roof, a new water chiller, circulation pump, as well as new batteries.

The Outreach van's meter, before (left) and after (right) installation

Outreach teacher Thabo Sabeko confirmed that he has not run out of electricity on his daily trips to schools. Even on days with complete cloud cover, the solar panels still run on 81% capacity and the batteries, which supply electricity to the equipment, continue to charge.

Thabo jokingly added that you can power your TV or washing machine quite easily with the current system in the van.

The solar-panelled life support systems have eased Thabo’s trips to schools considerably. The Outreach van no longer has to be connected to grid power, which makes setting up quick and easy.

The Two Oceans Aquarium is very proud of the upgraded Outreach van, as it supports our steps towards greener living and can be used as an educational tool at the same time. Should you know of a school that does not have the resources for school outings, please complete our online form here.

Reaching out! We'll bring the sea to your school
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