By Pamenus Tuso
THE Bulawayo City Council has approved the setting up of solar farms at the city’s cemeteries as part of the local authority’s renewable energy projects.
The local authority in 2020, engaged the Infrastructure Development Bank (IDB) to carry out feasibility studies on clean energy projects in the city.
Speaking during the city’s Master Plan review all-stakeholders meeting in the city, the city’s deputy director engineering services in charge of town planning, Wisdom Siziba, said following council’s approval of the solar project, the local authority would engage the residents on the project.
“The proposal to locate solar farms on cemeteries has been approved in principle. The Bulawayo community will be engaged on the proposal,” Siziba told the stakeholders.
After consultations with relevant stakeholders, Siziba said the project would be tendered to private players. The successful investors will maintain the gravesites while the solar panels, apart from providing electricity, will also provide shelter for the deceased.
“The solar panels would be located at a height which allows free movement of people underneath without interfering with the panels.
“The concept of solar farms hinges on the need for multi-use of land in view of the high demand and inelasticity of supply of land,” he said.
The issue of cemetery solar farms has in the past caused a storm with some residents and traditional leaders strongly objecting to the idea, arguing that it was taboo to the African culture.
But the deputy director defended the project.
“This does not constitute reuse of the land but it is the using of the space above the graves without disturbing the peace of the area,” Siziba said.
He said members of the public would have unlimited access to the cemetery site.
“The relatives of the deceased who are buried within the cemeteries would still be able to install tombstones on the graves of their loved ones and also to partake in tombstone unveiling ceremonies,” Siziba said.
The deputy director cited several examples in South Africa where the solar farms have been successfully installed.
“We have a solar panel roof covering parking area of the Vaal mall in Vereeniging in South Africa. In this instance, the multi uses of land that is proposed is the use of land within cemeteries as solar farms,” he added.
Addressing journalists early in 2020, the city’s Town Clerk Christopher Dube also revealed that the city was also exploring ways of installing solar panels on the city’s dams and wastewater and sewer treatment plants.
“We are floating solar farms in council dams where solar farms are erected in all BBC water bodies such as the entire Lower Ncema dam,” Dube said then.