Solar Hybrid to mitigate load shedding impact on South African businesses

Victorien Delangue

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The World Bank recently cut South Africa’s economic growth forecast for 2020 to below 1%, a direct result of electricity supply concerns. Last prediction from energy experts is stating that load shedding will remain for at least the next 5 years and continue to have a fundamental impact on the economy in a number of areas. Even though the Covid-19 lockdown has given the opportunity and some time for ESKOM to implement maintenance operations on different power stations in South Africa it is more likely that the power generation system will remain constrained after this episode and that Loadshedding will resume soon.

Why do we think load shedding will return when the lockdown is lifted?

The World Bank recently cut South Africa’s economic growth forecast for 2020 to below 1%, a direct result of electricity supply concerns. Last prediction from energy experts is stating that load shedding will remain for at least the next 5 years and continue to have a fundamental impact on the economy in a number of areas. Even though the Covid-19 lockdown has given the opportunity and some time for ESKOM to implement maintenance operations on different power stations in South Africa it is more likely that the power generation system will remain constrained after this episode and that Loadshedding will resume soon.

Solar power generation - Is it the answer to load shedding?

In a world of uncertainties, one thing remains sure, the sun shines and will keep on shining in South Africa. This country is one of the first countries for solar power generation:  “The annual 24-hour global solar radiation average is about 220 W/m² for South Africa, compared with about 150 W/m² for parts of the USA, and about 100 W/m² for Europe and the United Kingdom. This makes South Africa’s local resource one of the highest in the world” quoting SA department of energy. Benefiting from a huge potential for solar generation, many businesses are starting using their rooftop spaces to put solar panels on it.  What most people don’t know is that solar panels with PV inverters not integrated to the diesel generators are running independently and you only get the value of the solar production when the grid is on.  It is a common mistake to think that installing solar panels on the rooftop of your business will by itself help you mitigate the impact of load shedding.

Solar diesel hybrid integration - the most fitting way to level up

Indeed, Grid-tied solar inverters are designed to shut down if any power failure is happening. This is to prevent the power to go reverse to the grid or to the genset. Energy output from the inverters needs to synchronize with an AC power source, when the grid is down it cannot synchronize and thus shuts down.  This is where Elum solar Diesel controller brings value when load shedding is occurring, the backup system will start(mostly diesel generators)and with the help of the hybrid controller, PV inverters will synchronize back on the genset and you will still get the value of solar power while ensuring minimum genset loading and protecting the grid.  This graph below shows the production on a site equipped with a Solar Diesel controller during load shedding in South Africa. 

On this day at 10 am, the Genset is starting and delivering almost 90 kW during one hour and a half where without integration it would have undertaken a full load of 140 kW on this period saving roughly 15 gallons of fuel.  The future is hybrid, prepare your business for post lockdown, and use this time to plan for the future.