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Eskom is pushing SA Inc towards green buildings

Companies compelled to consider alternative power sources to ensure business continuity.

Green buildings are increasingly in demand in the face of concerns around Eskom’s ability to sustainably supply power.

At the recent African Utility Week conference, energy minister Jeff Radebe told delegates that “Eskom alone cannot meet our power capacity requirements, because we estimate that the capacity extension under the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will cost in excess of R1 trillion in the period up to 2030, including the new power plants plus the requisite transmission and distribution infrastructure”.

Property company Redefine recently noted that installing renewable energy interventions is an area with scope for growth, notably to alleviate some of the pressure caused by Eskom’s blackouts and tariff increases.

For the six months to February 2019, Redefine saw total solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity increase to 23.5 megawatt-peak (MWp; power output at rated laboratory conditions) across its property portfolios. The property company says green buildings remain a key development priority in line with creating a sustainable business.

Green buildings offers a multitude of benefits

“Our green buildings benefit our business, our tenants and our environment by utilising the latest technology across designs, drawing less power from the grid, reducing our carbon footprint, and optimising operational costs,” says CEO Andrew König.

Pieter Strydom, commercial asset manager at Redefine Properties, says that while Sandton has an oversupply of office space, well located prime grade green buildings remain in demand, keeping vacancy in that market segment low.

“While traffic remains the key detractor in the Sandton node, new builds offer amenities, accessibility to transport and efficient green-building designs,” he notes.

Global move towards renewable solutions

Oil giant Total launched a programme two years ago to equip about 5 000 of its service stations globally with solar power by 2021.

Around 53 Total service stations in South Africa currently run on solar energy.

Pierre-Yves Sachet, chief executive of Total South Africa, says as the global population and its energy requirements continue to grow, the need for responsible energy consumption becomes more dire. The fourth-largest gas and oil company in the world, Total operates three solar farms in the Karoo and has plans to expand its solar production footprint in South Africa.

Microgrid solution

Marco Rahner, Siemens digital grid head for technical sales and engineering, says the company launched a microgrid solution last year that won an award for the Digital Solution of the Year. “Distributed energy systems (DES) technologies offer building owners and energy consumers opportunities to reduce cost, improve reliability and secure additional revenue,” he says. “Siemens is able to offer an end-to-end solution looking at making buildings greener, while also assessing the clients’ power requirements and installing a microgrid solution.”

Rahner explains that the Siemens solution includes a microgrid controller that stabilises the grid in the event of an outage and allows for cost-optimised energy consumption.

Siemens recently signed up to develop an expandable microgrid solution for an industrial and business park in Ghana called WestPark. As part of the agreement, Siemens will develop a 250 kilowatt (kW) microgrid that controls the energy generation and throughput for the initial phase of buildings to be constructed at WestPark.

Expandable grid aims to ensure total renewable energy provision

The microgrid design is such that the first phase of WestPark will be powered entirely by renewable energy, supplied by onsite PV panels and a back-up battery storage solution. The grid can be expanded as more buildings are added, with the aim of ensuring that the park remains powered by renewable energy.

Sabine Dall’Omo, chief executive of Siemens southern and eastern Africa, says the project is in line with the vision Siemens has for future business in Ghana and other African countries. “As a company we are continuously looking for new responsible and efficient energy and infrastructure solutions, and our collaboration with WestPark is a good example of how we can support partners with similar goals,” she says.

Locally, the Siemens pilot project in distributed energy systems solutions at its Midrand headquarters consists of a one megawatt PV-solar plant on the campus buildings and parking area that is integrated with the diesel generator and a 140kW energy storage system via a Siemens microgrid controller.

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So it appears every cloud DOES have a silver lining….. let’s hope hope other clouds on the SA horizon have the same!

The irony is that Eskom used to be vehemently opposed to renewables for fear that they would steal their business. Now Eskom’s dire straits are actually massively promoting renewable energy. All we now need is for govt to wake up and allow Eskom to buy energy from renewable suppliers, integrate it into their distribution grid and re-sell it on. Many jobs will be provided (miners need to be reskilled to construct PV and CSP sites as well as install wind turbines), SA will have energy (many factories operate in the daytime as do office air conditioners) and Eskom may actually be able to reverse its declining income levels. Why waste our free national resources?

What a great project to design and rebuild a home and use the latest technology:

– Solar roof tiles
– Load distribution to minimize dependence on batteries
– Focus on energy usage when sun power is available
– Gas cooking
– Capture of rainwater
– Reuse of water for cisterns
– Dual plumbing systems for distribution of drinking and rainwater
– Geysers that last more than 5 years

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