HomeRegional NewsAfricaEd’s Note: Three easy steps to initiate going off the grid

Ed’s Note: Three easy steps to initiate going off the grid

The lights are burning, but no one is home. This is the case the world over as office blocks and industrial parks leave the lights on and equipment set to standby mode at night.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/08/14

These forms of modus operandi are literally burning your money, putting your equipment at risk during power surges, and increasing your business’s carbon footprint.

There are also the lurking threats of electricity price increases and power outages (loadshedding) that continue to put your bottom line in danger.

What’s the solution?

Going off the grid

The consensus is to take your business off the grid and generate your own power. A great idea but not without a unique set of challenges, which includes the technology choice, size, position, and funding the project.

I recommend taking these three initial steps to go off-grid.

1.      Convert and change

Convert lighting systems from incandescent bulbs to LED and consider a timer or motion sensor. Now change your consumption habits to use power mostly during sunlight hours – this is in preparation to reduce the load on batteries during the evening. Remember that the less discharge you have on your batteries, the longer they last.

2.      Identify the system

Now you are ready to decide on the type of operation for your off-grid project. This could be a hybrid unit combining gas, diesel and solar. Your business will need considerable space to house the solar PV panels (based on 250W modules, 20 panels will equate to about a 5kW system).

You will also require 20 to 30 batteries positioned in a cool, dry area. A key point to note is that once you are off the grid, there is no backup unless you include a large diesel generator. So make the decision wisely and talk to the experts. [Note: batteries are rated in Amp-hours (Ah) and depending on the size and rate of discharge, this will influence the efficiency and longevity of the batteries.]

3.      Finance the project

You are going to baulk at the initial cost but don’t let this deter you. Many of the commercial banks offer finance explicitly structured for this type of project. There is also an AFD initiative, UNREF that provides green loans to develop renewable and energy efficiency projects. Don’t forget to budget for maintenance costs to keep your unit operating at top efficiency.

In the long-term, your return on investment and transition to a greener business will be worthwhile.

As this will be your primary source of electricity, don’t leave anything to chance. Join us on 10 September for our webinar addressing Financing onsite power for the C&I market.

You will have access to the professionals who will discuss financing trends, risk analysis & opportunities, hybrid options, regulation, and cover case studies.

Share your “going off the grid” stor with us on our social media channels using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.