HomeMagazine ArticleIn depth: Yes to small-scale embedded generation

In depth: Yes to small-scale embedded generation

Black River Park Rooftop PV

A power hungry society could reach satiety one ‘small-scale’ bite at a time

With a world centred on driving global economic growth at all costs – the natural environment has suffered as a result. We are in an era where innovative solutions are needed to assist in mitigating the current challenges that the energy sector is facing.

In South Africa, residential and commercial power users are turning to alternative energy sources to lessen their dependency on the national grid. They have taken the initiative to adopt a green economic outlook by installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, allowing the user to utilise utility power when needed when the solar generated power is insufficient.

Small-scale embedded generation is an emerging trend which could be here to stay (a permanent fixture in the South African energy sector). By commercial companies integrating this system into their business strategy, they are not only contributing towards a cleaner environment but production will remain uninterrupted, instilling confidence in their clients.

Where are we with renewable energy storage?

A downfall of storage is the high cost attributed to the existing technology. Renewable energy storage is still in the development phase, leaving the current products on the market very expensive, especially when batteries have to be replaced.

As the technology improves, especially when viewed in conjunction to tariff hikes, it is likely that these solar systems could potentially reach grid parity in the short to medium future.

The Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa (SESSA) which said: “There are three types of solar PV systems and the most effective and beneficial one is a fully battery operated system… useful for areas where no grid exists. The energy produced will charge up the batteries which should allow for 3 days’ worth of energy needs and these batteries will feed the power requirements of the property”. “It is however even more important to note that as you add batteries, you add cost”.

Professor Tobias Bischof Niemz of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa told ESI Africa that embedded solar PV is cheap to run (0.8-0.9 R/kWh) due to the cost reduction on solar PV technology matched with South Africa’s climate which bathes in direct solar radiation. He added that the CAPEX in South Africa is almost at the same level as Germany in terms of tariffs per installed capacity….

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