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May 13, 2010

Basil Read invests R2,5m in solar power for head office

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Basil Read environmental officer Andrew Pearson and The Power Company director Jon Adams discuss the solar installation at the company's head office.
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Civil engineering and construction group Basil Read on Thursday unveiled a 240-panel solar photovoltaic installation, which provides about 25% of the power requirement at the company's head office in Boksburg.

Clearly passionate about renewable energy, Basil Read CEO Marius Heyns conceded that the technology was expensive, but noted that considering consistent electricity price increases it was becoming steadily more affordable.

"Basil Read, with a turnover of about R6-billion, can afford the R2,5-million for the system. If we as business generate power from a different source, we can do our bit for the environment," Heyns added.

He also noted that the return on investment for the system has come down from an initial ten-year to 15-year estimate, to payback between five and seven years.

At its peak, the system could generate 43,2 kW. The direct current power from the solar array is converted into three-phase alternating current power by five Steca 9 000 inverters.

Basil Read environmental officer Andrew Pearson further explained that when displacing the coal-fired power produced by power utility Eskom, every kilowatt hour produced by the solar system, meant about 1 kg less carbon dioxide emitted, 0,56 kg less coal burned, and about 1,44-litres less water used to produce the power.

Thus, if the system produced about 99,057 MWh a year, that equated to about 55,47 t of coal displaced, 146,64 kl of water saved, and 99 t less carbon dioxide emitted.

"As a company we felt it was imperative to take visible and tangible action with regards to energy conservation. The solar panels are a reflection of our intention to continually reduce our impact on the environment. This sends the message to our staff and all visitors to the head office that we are serious about doing our part to protect the planet," said Pearson.

The system was designed and installed by The Power Company, and director Jon Adams explained that the installation took about three months to get up and running. The solar array is about 352 m² in area, and covers about 85% of the roof of the plant department building. The power is routed to the main distribution board in the basement of the office building.

The system is linked to software which, in turns, sends data to a display in the building's reception area, which provides real time information on the amount of power being generated by the system, the total amount of electricity generated since installation, as well as how much carbon dioxide has been displaced since the project was commissioned in October 2009.

"The reality is that all businesses have an impact on the environment, whether they are large manufacturing concerns with significant electricity requirements, or small businesses with lower electricity demands or domestic users. What is important about Basil Read's installation of solar power is that they have made the commitment to reduce their impact on the environment by contributing to energy conservation and a reduction in green house gases," said Adams.

Pearson confirmed that Basil Read was considering other energy efficiency and green building practices at the offices which it had control over. The company would also, when involved in the design phase of a project, look to influence its clients into considering ‘greener' options.

"With the rising cost of electricity, there is an incentive for businesses to generate their own power, and they even sell surplus power back to Eskom. Solar power is the obvious choice as it is clean, quiet, non-polluting energy delivered free of charge from the sun," concluded Adams.

 

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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