Eskom’s load shedding is reaching stage three on an almost daily basis, and it might be time to terminate your company’s reliance on their unreliable power. While going entirely off the grid might not be an immediate option, obtaining an office power source (or three) is an investment in the future of your business. There are multiple options to supplement your electrical needs, so we will stick to the basics.
Generators as a temporary solution to load shedding
These bulky machines have been the industry standard almost since the Industrial Revolution itself. While the capital expenditure on electrical generators (approximately R100 000) may be lower than installing photovoltaic solar panels or wind turbines, the running costs of generators should also be taken into consideration when planning how to replace reliance on the grid. They chew up about 5 litres of diesel per hour when running at a 75% load, so – with the rising costs of fossil fuels – a generator may only be a temporary solution.
There are a number of options when looking at renewable energy sources, all of which promise a long term return on investment that far outweighs that of the ever-increasing costs of Eskom’s erratic power grid (or, indeed, of a generator). Photovoltaic solar panels are, by far, the most popular option – and for good reason. In a country like South Africa, where the skies tend to be clear and the sun shines in winter and summer alike, harnessing the infinite energy of the sun ensures a bright future.
The installation and maintenance of solar panels has also drastically reduced in price over the last few years, making it a viable alternative office power source. There are also other options in renewable energy, however, that can combine to move your company further off the grid.
Wind turbines are another source: they use the power of nature to add economic benefit to your business. While a 100 foot tall 10 kW turbine (which produces enough electricity to entirely power a household) might not be viable for your company, a seven foot turbine can produce 900-watts without turning your workplace into a windmill.
Microhydro electricity is also a cost-saving option as water power can produce 10 to 100 times more power than solar or wind power for the same capital investment – assuming you have the space for a stream on your grounds!
A Hybrid solar system
This option melds the best of both worlds: creating your own sustainable energy with solar panels, with a battery that can keep you going even when the sun goes down. Tesla Motors has created a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is designed to store energy for load shifting, backup power and consumption of self-generated solar power. This Tesla Powerwall harnesses excess power and allows for flexibility for solar electricity use – power generated while the sun shines can be used in times of darkness (a regular occurrence given load shedding).
This battery system can also be tied to the power grid, so that it collects power in times of low demand to use in peak hours – and given that Eskom is looking at introducing “Time of Use” tariffs, this could lead to electrifying savings in the long run!