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Pragasen Pillay (1958 – )

The Order of Mapungubwe in

Pragasen Pillay (1958 – ) Awarded for:
For his excellent achievement in and contribution to the field of energy conservation
Profile of Pragasen Pillay

Prof Pragasen Pillay’s love of mathematics and physics began at school. After completing his matric, Pillay chose to pursue a path in electrical engineering. He is an electrical engineer who is among South Africa’s leading scientists working on solutions to global warming. He specialises in using science and technology to reduce household waste and is adamant that environmental charity begins at home. Pillay believes that to make a difference in the environment one has to start with household waste.

Aside from his interest in household waste, Pillay has been involved in studying environmentally friendly renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind energy. His work on environmental issues is closely aligned with government’s targets for renewable energy. He is participating in the development of small to medium-sized wind turbines. His rare skills and expertise are crucial, especially in this time of energy shortages.

Worldwide, there is a demand for renewable energy, which is increasing and which will substantially increase over the next few years. Pillay has been using his skills to contribute towards working on solutions that will sustain the planet’s energy requirements without damaging its environment. These include wind, mechanical, hydro and solar energy and the generation of electrical power using biomatter.

Pillay is also working on the technology of solar water heating, which will contribute toward effective energy conservation. This particular research is aimed at heating hot-water tanks using solar energy, thereby removing the demand for electrical energy.

He continues to work tirelessly on alternatives to coal-generated electricity, which has been coined “green” electrical power
using wind, a technique regarded as an important contributor to the generation of power. He is also working on projects to improve the efficiency of electrical machines, including a project to upgrade the machines laboratory at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to do more extensive testing on electrical machines. He has an unrelenting determination to improve and conserve energy.

Given the problem of climate change associated with the use of fossil fuels, Pillay and his contemporaries are working to move away from fossil fuels towards more renewable energy and higher efficiency. While working on increasing energy efficiency, Pillay is also mindful of the emissions that are harmful to the environment. Therefore, closely linked to his work of sustainable energy, he is also determined to find solutions that are in harmony with the environment.

His work has seen him walk off with the TW Kambule Award for senior black researchers over the past five to 10 years
(Category H). Pillay received the award for his work on renewable-energy technology and for developing much-needed
human-resource capacity in this area.

Prof Pragasen Pillay has risen from being an ordinary schoolboy to become one of the foremost engineering scientists in South Africa, not only contributing massively to the Government’s policy of renewable energy but also putting South Africa on the world map.

Currently, Pillay teaches at both Clarkson University in New York and at UCT.