Silveray Manufacturing, the maker of Croxley stationery products, has switched to solar power as an alternative to electricity for the supply of hot water to the company's kitchen and three ablution blocks.
Silveray installed a 6 000-litre solar water heating system from local solar water heater manufacturer Solar Beam, in line with its drive to become more environmentally friendly, reduce costs and secure alternative sources of energy.
"Silveray is just one example of South African companies taking ownership of their energy supply in the face of rising energy costs and electricity supply issues. We've installed solar heating solutions at many local companies in recent months, including a 30 000-litre solar water heating system for a major motor manufacturer," said Solar Beam founder and MD Graham Mundy.
Silveray recently won the eThekwini municipality competition for corporations that showed the greatest savings in power usage over a four-month period, and encouraged electricity savings in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
"Solar Beam's solar water heating system has certainly exceeded our expectations. This aspect amongst other initiatives has without a doubt played a big part in winning the competition," said Silveray MD Niel Speres.
The R50 000 first prize was donated by Silveray to Lungisisa Indlela Village - an HIV/Aids orphans initiative started in Cottonfields, Verulam.
"Many companies are starting out their energy efficiency and security strategies by introducing solar water heating systems because they are a quick and relatively simple way to cut energy costs," said Mundy.
Once this has been achieved, they move on to address more complex elements, like establishing their own, independent energy supply channels. "The cost versus benefits equation is just too compelling for decision makers to ignore alternative energy - regardless of the size of the company," added Mundy.
Mundy stated that it would take about three-and-half, to four-and-a-half years for the savings of a solar heating solution to pay for itself in a corporate environment.
Mundy expected the domestic solar water heating market to follow the lead set by major companies, as homeowners strive to put in place alternative energy supply sources. Homeowners would be spurred on to install solar water heating systems by the increased Eskom cash-back rebates and the understanding that the savings in electricity costs should comfortably cover any repayment on a capital loan.
Solar Beam's experience showed that industrial businesses could achieve savings of up to 50% on electricity bills while home owners could experience savings of up to 40% once they install solar water heating solutions.
Payback time might be quicker if Eskom's subsidies for domestic solar installations were taken into account.
Mundy stressed that businesses and homes looking to install solar water heating systems should work with experienced service providers. Before the 2008 power blackouts, there were only nine solar water heating companies in South Africa, but that number has since shot up to around 300.
"Working with an inexperienced contractor in this field can be very costly. When selecting a provider, you should be looking for a minimum of five years industry experience, SABS full mark approval on products (not merely the SABS test report) and strong references from clients," said Mundy.
Solar Beam was founded in 1978, and has partnered with numerous home-owners and major industrial brands in developing and installing solar heating solutions.