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.




Thanks to the sponsors of our activities and facilities

  • DST – Solar thermal spoke and projects (2018 to present)
Other (including donations)
  • DST-NRF – Solar thermal spoke (2013 to 2017)
  • Eskom – Chair in Renewable Energy (CSP) (2013 to 2017)
  • PFG Building Glass – for the donation of all glass mirrors for the Sasol Helio40 system.
  • Austrian Development Agency
  • ARCONA International (PTY) Ltd – Suppliers of Alanod solar materials
  • 3M – Suppliers of solar mirror film
  • SolAfrica – indefinite loan of Kipp & Zonen shadow ring measurement station
  • Professor Nina Joblonski, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Penn State – donation of Kipp & Zonen UVS-AB-T sensor
  • GeoModel Solar – Access to satellite derived solar and weather data for academic use
  • Hope Project – Stellenbosch University
  • Sasol – Sr. Researcher in CSP, supervisor grants, bursaries & special equipment grant (Helio40 project)
  • TIA – Helio100 project

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