The university’s first district hot water system in South Africa installed at Wits Junction.

The first solar district heating system at Wits University began operating at the Junction residence on May 15.

District heating, also known as heat networks or teleheating, is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralised location through a system of insulated pipes for residential and commercial heating requirements.

The heating project combines solar, co-generation and gas heating technologies that will cater for just over 1100 students across 14 residence buildings. Manager of campus and development Jason Huang said the heating project consumes about 97 000 litres of hot water a day.

“The very loose definition of the term is that it’s not like your traditional one building, one system – it’s a central system that caters for an entire district,” said Huang.

Wits Junction’s heating water system project was constructed with the objective of saving the energy costs that the building spends every year, as well as resolving the issues around maintenance that have been a constant issue.

Emmanuel Prinsloo, director of campus planning and development, told Wits Vuvuzela, “The district water heating and distribution system was required to replace the previous solar or electrical water heating system that regularly failed and did not provide for the hot water requirements of the student community.”

Huang explained  that about R2 million of the utility bill is being saved through the implementation of the hot water system.

“It has the key benefit of providing a reliable supply of water to the student residence complex, introducing the use of renewable energy to offset electrical usage.

“At Wits Junction, the heating system only provides for water heating. Space heating is provided by means of individual convection heaters in each department,” said Prinsloo.

As a result, the one house system caters for all blocks around the campus residence.

The installation of the heating system is more of an industrial large-scale application comprised of a 600m2 solar heating plant installed at the Junction basement and parking area. The solar thermal panels are placed at the main block on the rooftop of 24 Shosholoza Building. In identifying and introducing the renewable energy sources, Huang and Prinsloo said that it saves on electrical consumption, which is part of an overall strategy to reduce the university’s carbon footprint overall.

FEATURED IMAGE: Hot water plant room located at the Wits Junction basement. Photo: Masechaba Kganyapa