STERG is a research group housed in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and affiliated with the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, the national academic hub for renewable and sustainable energy. STERG was the first university research group in South Africa dedicated to solar thermal energy research*. Our primary mission is to train students and deliver research outputs in Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).

STERG encourages multidisciplinary research activities and is presently expanding links with researchers in other departments and faculties. We have established good links and cooperation with the leading CSP research institutes worldwide.

STERG features in this video published by CRSES.


Stellenbosch University has an established record of conducting research related to solar thermal energy. This dates back to about 30 years ago when parabolic troughs and collectors were first researched. The research group also has a long history in improving condenser cooling for the power generation industry of South Africa, delivering improvements in the efficiency and water usage of power stations – particularly under the leadership of Professors Detlev Kröger and Theo Von Backstrom. This research has evolved to focus on solar thermal power generation cooling and fits into the SUNSPOT (Stellenbosch UNiversity Solar POwer Technology) system cycle, proposed by Prof. Kröger. A major initiative from the government led to the start of solar chimney research in 1999

Solar 1 – early days of our first solar roof lab

Solar 1 & 2, in 2012 - just more than a decade later.

Solar 1 & 2 in 2012 – just more than a decade later.

Solar 1 & 2 – at the end of 2014

Stellenbosch University was the first South African university to build a solar research roof. Back then, much of the research focused on the solar chimney concept. This lab complimented the various other thermoflow labs where research and development (R&D) in condenser cooling, turbo-machinery, flow and heat transfer has been ongoing for decades.

Strategic seed funding from the Stellenbosch University HOPE Project led to STERG attracting most of the major participants in South African solar thermal and CSP R&D.

Today our solar roof labs are three times bigger than the original lab. We have unique facilities nationally and perhaps worldwide for a university.


To be a world leading university solar thermal and CSP research group delivering graduates that will enable South Africa to achieve its solar energy potential from within and to be competitive abroad.


  • Produce highly skilled professionals for the solar thermal industry.
  • Focus on CSP research as the large scale sustainable power of the future.
  • Deliver highest quality research through publications and degrees.
  • Train a wider audience about solar thermal technology.
  • Influence the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) through systems knowledge of solar thermal technologies.
  • Promote and assist with the deployment of research/pilot/demonstration CSP plants of all sizes and types as an essential part of growing this industry.
  • Develop and supply tools and methods for component, plant and systems.




  • DST / NRF – Solar thermal spoke
  • Eskom – Chair in Renewable Energy (CSP) & donation of 25kW McDonnel Douglas Stirling dish
Other (including donations)

Prospective funder or donor

If you or your organization would like to sponsor specific projects or the research group in general, please contact us at our Contact page. Some projects for which we seek funding are listed at our Research page.

We also welcome donations of solar thermal equipment or materials from technology suppliers.

* To our knowledge, the following South African entities do research in CSP and solar thermal energy systems. Please let us know if we have missed anyone.

Dedicated research groups

  • STERG – Stellenbosch University
  • GSET (Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics) – UKZN
  • Eskom (Utility)
  • Sasol (Commercial)

As part of other research

  • CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research)
  • Thermofluids Research Group – UP
  • NWU
  • ERC (Energy Research Centre) – UCT
  • UJ
  • Wits