eco-friendly
Eco-friendly off-grid system in Kruger National Park. Source: DHYBRID

Off-grid suppliers, DHYBRID and Blockpower, have implemented an environmentally friendly, independent renewable energy supply for the Cheetah Plains Lodge, located in the world-famous Kruger National Park in South Africa.

The system comprises three solar plants with 895 photovoltaic (PV) modules in total and a one-megawatt hour lithium-ion battery storage system.

In addition to the new and quiet energy supply, the lodge uses custom-engineered electric vehicles for its safaris. A separate greywater recycling system, as well as a sewage treatment plant, have been installed on the property to minimise water consumption and environmental impact.

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A diesel generator, integrated with the microgrid, is available for use during low irradiation periods to support the storage system. DHYBRID’s Universal Power Platform (UPP) monitors and controls all the components in the system and therefore ensures a reliable energy supply at any time.

Cheetah Plains’ proprietor, Japie van Niekerk, said: “We have partnered with some of the world’s pre-eminent minds in the renewable energy field to provide clean energy solutions that drive both our hospitality and safari experiences here at Cheetah Plains.”

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Technical specifications of the installation

The new electricity supply offers a three-phase power output and comprises three solar installations with a total capacity of 300kWp; comprising a 160kWp rooftop installation, 100kWp mounted on carports, and 40kWp on dual-axis trackers.

A total of six 60kW string inverters is used in the installation.

The grid-forming, bi-directional battery inverter with a power output of 250kW is supplied by the lithium-ion storage system, which comprises Samsung SDI cells and offers a capacity of 1,027kWh.

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Both components are housed in an air-conditioned 20-foot ocean container, which was designed and built by the off-grid suppliers in accordance with international standards.

The diesel generator has a power output of 150kVA and can be remotely controlled. Real-time monitoring and remote grid maintenance occur via VPN using a SCADA system. Additionally, the UPP offers access to historical data via the DHYBRID web portal.

Smart control of the on-site eco-friendly power grid

In the interest of modernisation, the lodge has been equipped with a microgrid – its own on-site power grid – which is capable of reliably supplying electricity even to large three-phase energy consumers such as cooling systems or motors.

The available peak power capacity for the lodge has been increased by four times to 250kW since it switched over to the microgrid from its previous energy supplier, state-owned power utility Eskom.

“The new energy system doesn’t just increase security of supply; it also ensures grid quality. Moreover, carbon emissions and noise pollution are both decreased,” DHYBRID’s CEO Benedikt Böhm reports.

For many kinds of technical equipment, good grid quality is indispensable; for others, it extends their lifespan. This quality is reflected in the stable line voltage and frequency, which the UPP guarantees. The system continuously monitors all the important grid parameters and facilitates automated operation.

In order to reduce operating costs along with carbon emissions, the system controls the connected energy generators and energy storage in a way to maximise the use of renewable energy. Additionally, the UPP guarantees high security of supply without disruptions.

Energy generators used simultaneously

Unlike traditional independent microgrids where either the diesel generator or the solar installation can be used, the UPP can control different energy generators simultaneously.

This makes the entire system noticeably more efficient, meaning that the diesel generator only needs to be switched on when energy consumption is unusually high or in periods of bad weather.

This reduces fuel consumption, noise pollution, and the impact on the environment while extending the generator’s lifespan.

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