Solar energy is often a win-win solution - produce cheap, clean energy and create new, green jobs. Flying the flag for solar’s win-win opportunities is South Africa’s 'Giant Flag' project. Solar energy's proud sustainability flag will be so huge that it will be visible from space.

The project combines a vast solar farm of four-megawatts; planting fields of local, desert succulents; and new jobs to an economically impoverished part of the semi-desert Karoo. Early next year, in a barren part of the Karoo’s Camdeboo region, construction will begin on a 66-hectare South African flag comprising millions of coloured desert cacti and succulents, and a 4MW solar field to power more than 4000 homes.

The millions of colourful succulents and cacti used will offset 87,318 tons of carbon a year. The red top band of the flag will be planted with Mexican Fire Barrel cacti; the green ‘Y’ with Spekboom succulents; the blue bottom band with Blue Butterfly; the white piping will be the road. The yellow frame of the triangle will be Golden Barrel cacti, and the black triangle will be made up of solar panels. Coming together to create a symbol of a more equal, more sustainable future.

I am usually very wary of patriotism and flag flying, but I have heard from many South Africans, and of varying ethnicities, their pride in their post-apartheid flag. The ‘V’ form beginning at the flag post that flows into a single horizontal band to the outer edge can be interpreted as the convergence of diverse backgrounds within South African society. Many colours, many people taking a single road ahead in unity on the flag. Many people and the planet benefiting when adopting a new solar economy future.

This new model of economic stimulus for previously disadvantaged communities is summed up by the project web site as “job creation, clean energy and tourism come together in a world-first green innovation project that’s making change happen in South Africa!”.

I’m also happy that this is happening in the Karoo, an area of outstanding beauty that could be threatened by Shell’s proposed fracking of gas. No gasholes please, fossil fools! Instead let’s have more of these veritable triple bottom line businesses for green growth.