Alternate power solutions are now, more than ever before, a necessary requirement to keep business and industry operating and the lights on.

In South Africa, and many other sub-Saharan Africa countries, the already fragile economic environment is further presented with the challenge of operating during mandatory load shedding, along with the unscheduled power failures. Thus, finding alternate means to operate off the grid is rapidly becoming the conundrum all businesses face.

As of 2 December, Eskom has managed to keep load shedding to only two hours and 20 minutes over a 115-day period since August 2015. Is load shedding to become a thing of the past? Managing director at Sub-Sahara Power Distributors (SSPD) Brent Dicks does not think so, stating: “We must remember and consider certain facts which influence our power grid. Ideally, the spare capacity on any grid should be between 10-15% to allow for unforeseen events and scheduled maintenance. The reality in South Africa is that ours is in the low single figures.”

Furthermore, the power grid is aged, which creates a massive risk factor and unscheduled repairs are occurring, such as a technical fault on one of the eight converters at Apollo Substation in Midrand in the first week of December. “Crisis management is what happens,” says Dicks. “There is a fine line between coping at present and an incident that will push us back into the life of load shedding.”

An African challenge calls for unique solutions

The challenge of back-up power and off-grid energy supply has aided the ever increasing and competitive nature of supplying effective alternate power solutions. With advancements in technology, finding a turnkey solution tailor made for business, industrial and residential requirements in Africa is no longer an impossible task, but is readily available.

However, one of the main concerns with back-up generators is noise pollution and the criteria to be met has changed dramatically over the years. Generators as a whole are noisy and when installed in any environment need to comply with the local regulations. In South Africa, noise pollution is governed by the Environmental Conservation Act 73.1 of 1989, which gives different criteria to be complied with for different areas.

For instance, in the Central Business District the daytime level is 60Dba and night-time level is 55Dba; for Suburban Districts the daytime level is 50Dba and night-time level is 40Dba. The law stipulates that the source of noise cannot exceed these levels by more than 7Dba.

Dicks states: “The general practice, as far as municipalities are concerned, is that once a complaint is received, the noise level is measured in accordance with the bylaw on the property boundary and the source cannot add to the ambient noise level day or night.”

The majority of generator manufactures have chosen design criteria for noise levels of between 67Dba-79Dba. While this noise level would comply with daytime requirements, it falls short of night-time requirements and does not comply with suburban noise levels. Modern technology, while certain materials used in the industry for noise dampening has improved, the basic ….

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