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Solar cooled data centre: an African first

By on 24 July 2014

MTN has reaffirmed its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by unveiling Africa’s first Concentrating Solar Cooling System that will power its energy-hungry data centres.

The system was designed by REACH Renewable and AOS Consulting Engineers and implemented jointly with Industrial Solar, Voltas Technologies and Luft Technik, and supported by the professional team comprising of ISF Services, Classen Auret, Project Works, DSM and Pentad. It is driven by a cutting-edge technology called Linear Fresnel Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) that uses heat generated from the sun and has a peak cooling capacity of 330 kW.


The system consists of 242 solar mirrors covering a total area of 484 square metres, which track the sun to generate pressurised hot water at 180 degrees Celsius. The hot water in turn powers an absorption chiller that produces chilled water circulated into the data centre for cooling of IT equipment.

The mirrors follow the movement of the sun, based on the GPS location, orientation and the date and time. This information guides the system to track the sun to concentrate on the central absorber tube where heat is generated.

The absorption chillers use a lithium bromide water solution which uses water as the refrigerant. This is a completely green solution that has zero global warming potential (GWP=0) and no ozone depletion potential (ODP=0). When it rains, the mirrors move into a self-cleaning position, and on cloudy days, the mirrors turn down into a protective stow position.

Zunaid Bulbulia, MTN South Africa Chief Executive Officer, says the CSP system cements MTN’s green credentials. MTN was awarded the first Silver Certified building in South Africa under the EBOM technical manual by United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in recognition of its sustainability efforts in all the operational efforts and commitment at the MTN head office building.

“MTN is acutely aware of the impact of global warming and its adverse impact on emerging markets including South Africa. We continuously explore ways in which we can not only reduce our carbon footprint, but it will substantially reduce our electricity consumption which will release additional capacity for the national grid,” says Bulbulia.



MTN Concentrating Solar Thermal Cooling Plant, July 2014 from The Energy Blog on Vimeo.

Some numbers ...

  • Peak Cooling Capacity: 330kW
  • Number of Mirrors: 242
  • Mirror Area: 484 square metres
  • Operating Pressure: 16bar
  • Annual Gross Heat Production: 391MWh
  • Chiller Cooling Capacity: 330kW
  • Type of Chiller: Double-Effect Hot Water
  • Hot Water Temperature: 180°C->160°C
  • Hot Water Flow Rate: 10m 3 /h
  • Chiller Operational Weight: 6.9 tons
  • Chiller Electrical Consumption: 3.2kW
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