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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Being part of the renewable future and harnessing the power of the sun to generate clean, renewable and reliable energy for South Africa

Modiehi Lettia Lephuting, Operations and Maintenance Technician at SolarAfrica Energy

Modiehi Lettia Lephuting

Modiehi Lettia Lephuting is an operations and maintenance technician at SolarAfrica Energy, a company that provides a holistic approach to solar solutions and specialises in bringing together financial and technical expertise to meet the long-term sustainable energy needs of their customers. She is the only woman in the operations and maintenance technician role, and prior to this she worked as a transformer tester and quality controller at Radian Transformers, where she was also the only woman in that role. Modiehi studied electrical engineering and photovoltaic solar energy at the University of Johannesburg.

Modiehi Lettia Lephuting
Modiehi Lettia Lephuting

“Working with solar, I feel I am part of the solution to keeping the environment clean and offering sustainable, renewable energy. I am part of the renewable future and nothing makes me prouder.”

Discovering my fascination with heavy currents and photovoltaic solar

I attended Qhaqholla Primary School and then Khanya Lesedi Secondary School, which are both in Heidelberg, South Africa. I then studied at the University of Johannesburg, where I completed my electrical engineering heavy current qualification and my photovoltaic solar certificate through a training company called Resolution Circle.

I was the only female transformer tester and quality controller at Radian Transformers and now I am the only female operations and maintenance technician at SolarAfrica.

Converting light into electricity

Photovoltaics (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry. The photovoltaic effect is commercially utilised for electricity generation and as photosensors.

Modiehi Lettia LephutingMy role is to ensure that all our photovoltaic (PV) systems are operating to their maximum capacity by daily monitoring, conducting condition and scheduled maintenance, keeping a good relationship with our clients, fault finding and replacing/upgrading all faulty and outdated equipment.

Working on site is the most amazing part of my job because as much as I love the technical side. My other favourite part is interacting with clients and creating good relationships by offering great service and quality work with passion and pride. I believe in adding value and learning at the same time so the broader the purpose, the more you can learn and explore. That’s why it’s always fun and never feels like work.

I was fortunate that COVID did not affect me directly but it did make me aware of renewable and decide to change my route career-wise because during lockdown I got a chance to research and learn more about photovoltaic solar.

Being part of the solution

Working with solar, I feel I am part of the solution to keeping the environment clean and offering sustainable, renewable energy. I am part of the renewable future and nothing makes me prouder.

The fact that solar energy, which is renewable, is not only clean and sustainable but also reliable, especially with the power shortages we have in South Africa, means that renewable is the way to go, but this also means that engineers always need to stay ahead with all solutions.

Power shortages affect our daily life routines here in South Africa, for example when there is no power, traffic lights do not operate and the traffic becomes crazy, which disrupts getting to work, which then has a knock-on effect for the rest of our daily routines. Most businesses do not have backup systems so when there is no power they lose business and production for that time. Schools are always so distracted with the power issue too.

The price of electricity is high, so grid-tied solar systems (like ours at Solar Africa) help to reduce electricity consumption from the grid and reduce the power we all use from the grid, which means bills are reduced and Eskom (the South African public electricity company) is also under less pressure.

Solar systems with a backup facility are a blessing because even without electricity you still have power because during the day when the solar panels are producing power, your batteries charge up, which then serves as your backup. Off-grid solar systems are the greatest blessing because they reduce the strain of power on the grid completely.

The challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated sector

Modiehi Lettia LephutingAs women in a male-dominated sector, we go through a lot of phases in our career life to be taken seriously so I believe that we are worth being celebrated because we add the same value in the industry.

Being the only woman in these positions is difficult at first because you can feel like you have to prove yourself ten times more than a man as the right person for the job, but once they realise you’re good at what you do then they are able to celebrate your work and use you as motivation!

My engineering role model

A former colleague called Gordon Webber is my role model. He was the first engineer I met at Radian Transformers and the first man to believe in me and train me. He gave me huge responsibilities while everyone else thought I wouldn’t manage. I will always be thankful that he saw the potential in me and he constantly told me that life is what you make it.

Pushing myself to the limit

Moving forward I am excited to be the designated technician for my company’s biggest site, which is a Ford Motor Company site, and is a 13.5-MW site, which is HUGE! It’s a serious challenge but that’s the main reason it’s so exciting. I love pushing myself to the limit.

As I mentioned earlier, it is one of my key responsibilities to monitor sites daily and ensure that the site performance is at its maximum, and this site is the biggest (using 100kW inverters), so serious kit.

I am also excited that I am running my first real (not virtual) comrades marathon this year. Bring it on. I’m ready!

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