http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/local-renewable-energy-industry-must-consolidate-to-advance-2009-10-02

Local renewable-energy industry must consolidate to advance

Published 02 Oct 09
The local renewable-energy sector should work together to promote sustainable energy solutions as an entire concept rather than individual companies exclusively promoting their methods, says energy solutions company The Power Company regional manager Alan Curtis.

He says that, because the industry con- sists of a number of smaller companies providing a variety of renewable-energy solutions, for the entire industry to increase its visibility and effectiveness, the public should be made aware of the range of solu- tions available to take advantage of the technologies that will contribute most effectively towards individual energy conservation and efficiency. “We are not looking to sustain wasteful life styles and we will achieve this by educating and responsibly recommending the most appropriate solution,” he adds.

The Power Company provides photovoltaic system solutions using solar modules that are usually mounted on the roof of a building and store the energy the panels generate in batteries. Alternatively, the energy can be transferred directly into the building’s distribution board. In each of these options, inverters are used to produce conventional alternating current power. “In pure power backup designs, when grid power fails, the switch-over to battery-stored electricity is almost instantaneous. “The systems have been extensively tested on computers, their servers and other critical load applications, and changeover from grid power to solar power is achieved almost imperceptibly with no negative impact on equipment,” says Curtis.

The system has a control box, which allows users to monitor battery levels and indicates whether grid power or solar power is in use. The inverter in the system is also able to monitor when batteries are charged to full capacity.

Curtis explains that in Germany, in particu- lar, many individuals have had solar power generation systems installed on their properties. The full amount of energy generated by the system is fed into the national grid through a dedicated meter, at a predetermined price. Electricity is then taken from the grid through a second meter at a lower price. The differential provides an income stream, which, over time, pays for the system.

In South Africa this arrangement could assist in reducing the pressure on State-owned power utility Eskom to invest in highly expensive bulk power generation projects, says Curtis. “The National Energy Regulator of South Africa is currently giving close consi- deration to the implementation of such a scheme. “The opportunity to sell power back to the grid adds a meaningful incentive for people to invest in solar power systems on their properties and South Africa has one of the best sunshine regimes in the world,” he says.

The system has an estimated life span of 20 years to 25 years.

Curtis says that there are a variety of markets available for the system and that the company assesses the needs of clients on an individual basis, according to the size and electricity requirements of the property. He adds that a benefit of the system is that it is modular and can be increased as required by a user.

Although The Power Company is currently primarily involved with photovoltaic solutions, it also aims to promote and support companies providing other renewable-energy solutions.

He concludes that the approach to renew- able-energy solutions needs to shift from a focus on initial spend to long-term investment, particularly in retrofit applications.