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Growthpoint Properties powers innovation with its NWU Solar Car team sponsorship

L.J. Grobler, Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the North-West University and Werner van Antwerpen, Head of Sustainability at Growthpoint


Pushing the boundaries of what is possible for alternative energy and engineering, Growthpoint Properties has announced that it is sponsoring the North West University’s Solar Car challenge team.

With its sponsorship, Growthpoint is helping to the give the team its day in the sun at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which takes place from 8 to 15 October in Australia. The gruelling journey starts in Darwin and follows the Stuart Highway to Port Augusta followed by Highway 1 to Adelaide about 3,000km away.

NWU Solar has already set the bar high with its solar car challenge achievements. It was co-winner of its very first outing at the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge, an honour it shared with Tokai University, which is consistently ranked as one of the top three teams in the world.

The team has gone on to break various records. In 2015, at the previous biennial Bridgestone World Challenge, NWU Solar debuted to become the first team from Africa to cross the finish line. It took 11th place in an overall field of 29, beating some world-renowned universities in the process including MIT and Cambridge. It holds the record for the furthest distance travelled by a South African team in a single day (611.9km), as well as the furthest distance completed by a South African team (3,524.9km).

But why would a property company invest in a university solar car team?

Growthpoint is no ordinary property company. It provides space to thrive. Its pursuit of sustainability across its diverse portfolio of 547 owned and managed properties can be seen in the innovations in its buildings, in South Africa and internationally.

Growthpoint is a Platinum Founding member of the Green Building Council South Africa, a constituent of the FTSE4Good Emerging Index and the FTSE/JSE Responsible Investment Index. It owns and co-owns the biggest portfolio of certified green buildings in South Africa. Growthpoint also embraces solar power in South Africa with several solar plants already in operation.

It has already installed photovoltaic solar panels with the capacity to generate over 8.1MWp (DC, excluding the V&A Waterfront) at sixteen of its office, retail and industrial properties (all below 1MWp AC).

Head of Sustainability at Growthpoint, Werner van Antwerpen, explains: “The objective of the NWU Solar car project is to go beyond simply competing in challenges. Its goals include performing interdisciplinary research and development that drives a sustainable future based on innovative new technologies. This really appealed to us. For real and sustainable innovation, we need to close the gap between universities, government and business. NWU Solar is innovating in a way that produces commercially viable products that create jobs and opportunities. We support this wholeheartedly.”

He adds: “Growthpoint’s sponsorship of the NWU Solar team is an excellent platform to showcase our commitment to sustainability and innovation while also supporting a group of students who are the future leaders of our industry and others. We also want to encourage young people to achieve success in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and apply their skills to create relevant and commercial solutions.”

Strong synergies form the foundation for this sponsorship. For instance, with Growthpoint’s increasing use of renewable solar energy at many of its buildings, it stands to benefit from the university’s advances and research in solar power, battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology and the algorithms to manage these storage solutions.

Van Antwerpen highlights that the NWU Faculty of Engineering has also proven courageous in what it takes on, and this is a quality that Growthpoint values, encourages and invests in.

The faculty recently launched Naledi, the 2017 iteration of the solar car that will be competing in Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Naledi, meaning ‘star’, boasts a brand new design with the body based on the world-class JS3 Jonker Sailplane that also has its roots at the NWU Faculty of Engineering. The team from NWU will also be using solar tracking technology to soak up sun rays, keeping its panels at an optimal angle to the sun at all times. The body shape with the use of solar tracking makes Naledi one of the most unique vehicles in the competition.

With its impressive track record, the NWU Solar team has a lot to live up to, but it has already proven that it relishes a challenge. Van Antwerpen says: “We wish the NWU Solar team everything of the best for the upcoming Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. True to the name of their car (and its power source), we believe that they are stars who will continue to shine in this global challenge.”

Its sponsorship of the NWU Solar car challenge team is just one of the ways the Growthpoint invests in sustainability and innovation at university level in South Africa. Growthpoint also founded the Greenovate Awards programme with the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), which sets university students of the built environment and engineering on a quest to find more sustainable ways of living.

Growthpoint is the largest South African primary listed REIT on the JSE, and is emerging as a leading international property company. It owns and manages a diversified portfolio of 547 property assets. This includes 471 properties in South Africa valued at R76.9bn and Growthpoint’s 50% interest in the properties at V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, valued at R8.7bn. Internationally, Growthpoint owns 57 properties in Australia valued at R32.5bn through its investment in ASX-listed Growthpoint Properties Australia (GOZ) and 18 properties in Romania valued at EUR1.0bn through its investment in LSE AIM-listed Globalworth Real Estate Investments (GWI).