Alternative energy systems boosting African industrial supply chains

8th April 2016 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Alternative energy and storage systems are being used to make various portions of African industrial supply chains more effective and resilient, as well as control energy costs and production disruptions, says elec- trical equipment specialist firm Eaton alterna- tive energy specialist Winfried Kurzyca.

Predictable power supply is usually critical for industrial companies to meet their production targets and timelines, and alternative energy removes the risks arising from unstable grids and poor power quality.

Capacity

Eaton is providing its specialist alternative energy design capacity for medium-sized and large companies, which can often benefit most from such projects, but do not have the in-house skills to conduct scoping and feasibility studies.

“Alternative energy projects larger than 5 MW are well catered for in Africa. However, medium-sized to large companies are not well catered for in the alternative energy solutions market, and this is where we identify significant growth, which is reflected in the demand from this segment.”

A key role that Eaton fulfils is that of expert consultant, as it investigates available alternative energy sources, such as biogas, natural gas, solar, geothermal, wind, biomass-based energy and various storage systems, that are suitable and economic for plants to use, based on the availability and viability of using various energy sources.

“The visibility that our highly detailed studies and proposals provide is necessary to combat the effect of substandard alternative energy solutions deployed in the market, which did not provide the expected benefits,” Kurzyca says.

He adds that, by providing these studies, cost and phased roll-out models, customers can assess whether an alternative energy project is affordable, what combination of alternative energy sources and storage to use and how to roll out such a project over time to reduce the impact on cash flow.

Kurzyca notes that Eaton aims to provide bespoke alternative energy and storage systems for packaging, bottling and processing plants, as well as grain mills and cold storage supply chain systems, as they can benefit most from improved reliability, power quality and lower costs.

“Not all industrial processes or plants can be powered using alternative energy sources, and a key function of Eaton’s work in this regard is providing highly detailed designs for clients on the costs and return on investment for such systems, with cognisance of the context in which a business operates and the regulations for that country.”

While the company has not deployed alternative energy solutions for industrial parks, as these are typically larger power projects, it has registered interest sparked by its existing industrial systems in Africa.

Markets

He explains that word of mouth is very power- ful, especially in specialist industries and specific markets, as industry experts who are aware of various details and nuances can share operational experiences or challenges.

Eaton has also deployed its alternative energy solutions in farming communities and it notes that these types of minigrids supporting communities around industries are expected to increase.