Eaton Africa’s switchgear is helping Shoprite alleviate the effects of loadshedding by keeping the food retailer’s cold storage warehouses up and running during power outages.
Finding both energy and cost-efficient solutions to the operational challenges that the warehousing and distribution sector currently faces across Africa is a high priority, particularly for the continent’s retail giants.
South Africa’s national utility has been under immense strain in recent years, with ongoing loadshedding causing continuous outages across the country. Alternative power management solutions have become crucial, particularly for large retailers that need to ensure optimum shelf life for perishable goods in cold storage.
Having recently opened its 123,000m2 Whitey Basson Distribution Park in the Western Cape, Shoprite – Africa’s largest food retailer – had to find the right switchgear solution for its most technologically advanced distribution centre, consisting of three warehouses, one of which is completely devoted to cold storage.
Loadshedding causes costly overheads to switchgear
ESS Business Development Manager for Eaton Africa, Marcel Buckner, stated: “At the time the facility was designed, loadshedding was causing an average of two power outages a day in the Cape Town area and at this rate, conventional switchgear that generally lasts between 2,000 and 3,000 operations would need to be replaced every three to four years. Shoprite would have incurred additional maintenance costs due to the unplanned outages.”
Working with Eaton, engineering professional services consulting firm WSP Africa developed a medium voltage (MV) power distribution system using Eaton’s Xiria E extendible-type switchgear.
This would provide a 10,000-operation switchgear solution, also allowing for a more flexible power distribution system with a broad range of protection and control options, and the possibility for future extensions of the secondary switchgear system.
Saverio Talotti, regional director at WSP Africa, explains that Eaton’s Xiria E MV switchgear made the most sense economically: “Both in terms of up-front costs and total cost of ownership – and made a huge difference that had a major impact on project and future cost.”
According to Talotti, the vacuum interrupters are maintenance-free and are certified up to 30,000 operation cycles. He adds that the Xiria E MV switchgear offers a “lower total cost of ownership in comparison to SF6 contained switchgear” and that the systems, materials and components are also all recyclable at end of life.
The electricity industry uses approximately 80% of all sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) produced in the world, while end-of-life disposal of SF6 switchgear in South Africa can run upwards of 25% of the original cost of the equipment thus adding immensely to the total cost of ownership (TCO).
To add to the problem, SF6 is 23,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide and tops the list of the most harmful greenhouse gases, remaining in the atmosphere for 3,200 years with a global warming potential (GWP) of around 22,800.
“Solutions like these can and should define the future of warehousing and distribution across sectors,” concludes Buckner.