Solutions for South Africans looking for alternative energy sources
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SOLARWORLD Africa unpacks options for households and small businesses
Eskom has announced the start of load shedding and the reality of ongoing power cuts remains omnipresent for South Africans. Households and businesses, especially small businesses that don’t have the luxury of large generators in an office or warehouse environment, continue to seek alternative power sources to keep the lights on.
According to Gregor Kuepper, Managing Director of SOLARWORLD Africa, there has been a marked uptake of renewable energy solutions as consumers begin to prepare for the worst – the ongoing Stage 6 load shedding. “Previously, solar power was only a solution for large businesses or those with enough space to house enough panels to support electricity consumption. Fortunately, and thanks to innovation in this area, homes and small businesses now have several options to provide temporary assistance in the event of a power outage, and potentially, long-term relief as a power source. continue preferred.
The SOLARWORLD Africa team has nearly 40 years of experience and a proven track record in sub-Saharan Africa. Kuepper explains how the following solutions will keep the lights on – or the kettle boiling – and the machines running during load shedding will ultimately become more self-sufficient or independent of the grid.
There are different types of energy systems: on-grid (grid-tied), off-grid, and on-grid with backup. “Grid-connected solar PV systems are the most common in South Africa because they are the most affordable and have the best business case. However, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able to enjoy that cup of coffee while shedding. Grid-connected solar PV systems will typically be programmed to shut down during load shedding.
Why is it? These are international safety standards. However, this does not mean that South Africans should remain ignorant.
If you’ll forgive the pun, Kuepper “highlights” the various solutions:
Solution 1 – Grid Tied Photovoltaic (PV) System
A photovoltaic system, also PV system or solar power system, is an electrical power system designed to provide usable solar energy by means of photovoltaics. The two main components are photovoltaic panels (DC power) and a grid-tied photovoltaic inverter (DC to AC).
Why do you need a grid-connected photovoltaic inverter? It converts variable direct current from photovoltaic panels into alternating current and feeds it to your home equipment and eventually to the grid.
What is meant by “networked”? The inverter synchronizes the output frequency and voltage with its connected grid. If solar power is insufficient, a grid-connected photovoltaic inverter switches over and starts drawing power from the grid into your home. It guarantees a continuous power supply.
“This option saves electricity in the long term, no backup is needed. Pure PV inverters are grid tied, this means they need the grid to turn on and convert direct current (PV) to alternating current which is required by the appliances in your home.
Solution 2 – On network with backup
2.1 PV and battery
This is a later self-consumption (SCO) backup and optimization option. Self-consumption contributes to the stability of the distribution network by avoiding the voltage increase during peak PV production periods such as the middle of the day, and helps to achieve higher shares of installed PV in the electricity mix .
“As for PV and battery, this can be provided by a hybrid inverter (i.e. PV and battery) or by a separate battery and PV inverter. Your batteries act as backup power when the grid fails, such as during load shedding or a blackout. During a normal day, PV can power a home and charge those batteries. This stored energy can then be used overnight, what we call SCO.
2.2 Backup battery
This is purely a backup solution and typically sized to ensure your essential loads are operational during load shedding/power failure. Under the pure battery backup banner, you also have various options. Like an inverter, a battery with a charge controller, then of course a battery and a battery inverter. Among these, a battery with a good and reliable battery inverter is the most reliable solution.
2.3 Battery and hybrid inverter
It is the same as the battery and battery inverter option, except the consumer has the option of installing PV panels later and does not have to add the extra cost of a PV inverter, as they would be ready for the PV.
Solution 3 – Off Grid
In South Africa’s current energy climate, this option seems very attractive. This, however, requires careful planning and sizing of your system. You would need a photovoltaic generator large enough to meet your daily loads and charge the batteries for nighttime use. And in turn, a battery bank large enough to serve the loads during the evenings and possibly during the day when there is not enough PV generation. There is of course the possibility of adding a generator or using the network as a backup.
Kuepper says a bespoke approach will see various renewable energy solutions and products recommended and made available. “Consult the experts, evaluate the options and also find a solution that not only meets your electricity consumption needs, but is also financially viable – and always consider the long-term benefits, as some products are designed to go further away.”
For help finding the right solution, contact SOLARWORLD Africa via their website or call 021 421-8001. We have an extensive network of installation partners across South Africa and we would be happy to put you in touch with one of them.