Low emissions and muffled noise are prized attributes in standby power units, which are not easily available in the market. This inspired a Cape Town company to look beyond its usual applications to offer a range of gas powered gensets worthy of the clean energy revolution.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Self-generation is a topic that inevitably arises when a commercial or industrial operation wants to expand beyond a point at which its electricity supplier can provide power, or when power outages become damaging to operations and products. But apart from these less desirable reasons for making the self-generation switch, there are also highly positive reasons of lowering one’s carbon footprint, attaining a higher level of overall energy efficiency, and – the bottom line – saving money.

With this in mind, Sustainable Power Generation (SustainPower), a specialist in commercial and industrial biogas and natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) solutions, has taken bold steps to introduce a new range of clean and quiet standby gas generators. The company has broken out of its traditional sector of biogas to advance into the commercial and industrial space and, partnering with a market leader for standby power solutions, into the domestic sector.

The company began in 2016 as a startup in Cape Town, South Africa as providers of clean energy solutions in rugged, secure containerised systems. Leading through innovation, the firm has two primary clean energy solutions in mind; SustainPower for gas-to-power solutions, and SustainSolar for rapid deployment offgrid solar and storage solutions.

In early 2017, SustainPower launched its world-class range of combined heat and power biogas generators (CHP) designed and built in South Africa. Soon thereafter, the company’s first biogas CHP was installed at a large abattoir in Gauteng, playing a vital role in turning problematic organic waste into renewable energy.

Making waves in biogas The company’s containerised CHP generator produces electricity and heat from biogas in a waste-to-energy process, which, by recovering about 90% of the energy in the gaseous fuel, is the most efficient use of a genset. Biogas is a methane-rich gas produced during the breakdown of organic matter (e.g. agricultural waste, plant material, and food waste) in an anaerobic digestion process, and is therefore considered a renewable energy source.

“While the biogas and waste-to-energy industry in Africa is still in its infancy, it has enormous potential, as energy shortages and ineffective waste management are among the largest challenges in Africa”, says Tobias Hobbach, Managing Director of SustainPower.

In 2018, discussions began with one of the largest food and beverage groups in South Africa who installed a biogas plant as part of its wastewater treatment process. This effluent treatment plant began producing a high grade biogas,


Pramac gas standby generator range for domestic and small businessuse offering LPG and natural gas powered backup power in sizes of 8, 10 and 13kW single phase and 20kW 3-phase

which, without the installation of CHP technology, would have been lost to flaring. SustainPower had the right equipment, built to the quality expected by the client, and in March 2019 a 550kW CHP unit was installed on-site.

A move to natural gas

In its pursuit of natural gas opportunities, SustainPower has developed an impressive pipeline since 2018. Says Ames Martin, Head of Operations at SustainPower: “It’s not just about the components, but also about how they are integrated; we design our solutions with the complete package in mind. Whether it’s a 110kW to 1MW MAN TwinPack, or a much larger MTU engine, our CHP solutions are designed for highly efficient, reliable and continuous operation, reaching lifecycles in excess of 75,000 operating hours, and always with ease of maintenance, modularity, and redundancy in mind.”

Combined heat and power gas generators offer over one megawatt of heat for every one megawatt of electricity generated. This heat can be delivered in the form of hot gas, hot water, steam, or chilled water for cooling; heat that would otherwise have to be purchased separately, but herein is created as a by-product to generating one’s own electricity, and thereby securing your operation’s energy independence.

Beat loadshedding with gas power

In partnership with Italian-based Pramac (part of the Generac group since 2016), SustainPower has introduced a specialised range of gas powered standby generators for domestic and commercial clients, with numerous advantages over traditional diesel gensets. In an effort to broaden the product offering and to complement its gas-to-power expertise SustainPower has entered into this partnership.

Through the collaboration, SustainPower can now offer standby power functionality with its super-silent, clean, LPG and natural gas generators. This partnership provides smart and economic alternatives to private residences and small to medium sized businesses who want back-up power but not the loud and dirty diesel or petrol options currently on the market.

“Better than diesel, and not just for commercial use,” says Martin, adding: “Pramac generators offer quiet and clean alternative to the traditional diesel and petrol generators normally found. The best part is that they connect directly to the LP and natural gas supply that a home or restaurant is already using for its cooking.”

Gas and diesel engines have similar consumption rates, and the diesel and LPG fuels have similar prices; however, for homes and small to medium businesses, such as restaurants who are suffering from loadshedding, the LPG option has clear advantages due to its cleanliness, and the fact that many homes and restaurants have LPG and in some parts even a natural gas pipeline installation already in place.

Adding a small quiet gas generator is a very simple process, and can be done for approximately R75k for a 10kW unit. The Pramac residential and small business product line starts from 8kW up to 20kW. The generators use small, air-cooled engines made in the US by Generac; with minimal maintenance, they are much cleaner than a liquid-cooled diesel engine.

Pramac, established in 1966 by the Campinoti family, produces and sells power generation systems and material handling equipment primarily under the Pramac and Lifter by Pramac brands. Selling into over 180 countries through a broad distribution network, the firm can count on a workforce of over 700 employees across its five manufacturing plants and 16 commercial branches worldwide.

With the aim of pursuing further growth opportunities in the global power generation market, in 2016 Pramac sealed an agreement with Generac – North America market leader for the manufacturing of a wide range of power generation equipment and other engine powered products. Together, the two companies count on more than 4,000 employees and represent the third largest group in the world for the production of generators. ESI

About the company

SustainPower produces containerised, high-quality, durable solutions for sustainable power generation, designed and manufactured in South Africa, with world-class components. Backed by Africa-proof South African design, engineering, assembly, fabrication, and commissioning, SustainPower only uses trusted, worldclass suppliers with technical support and product warranty. Offering gas-to-power solutions, as well as solar solutions, clean energy is available and sustainable for Africa’s 600 million people who do not have electricity.

www.sustainpower.co.za | info@sustainpower.co.za

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.