Fri, 24 May 2024
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East London residential estate powered by solar

Home Infrastructure Energy – Power Generation East London residential estate powered by solar

AMID South Africa’s devastating energy crisis and perpetual electricity outages, a South African community is changing the way residential estates handle the crisis.

Impower has launched a flagship PV solar and Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) facility, utilising innovative single-axis tracking technology, at Coral Beach Residential Estate near East London.

The estate is 10 minutes from East London and is marketed as offering a secure, comfortable, and ecologically conscious lifestyle.

The estate’s power supply depended on a busy commercial line, which was often vandalised by copper thieves. This resulted in frequent, extended power outages, in addition to the regular loadshedding schedule. A typical 2 – 5 hour backup power system would not be sufficient.

Impower is a forerunner in the country’s rapidly expanding solar sector, but even so, this project pushed the group to its limits, explains CEO Jay Naidoo.

“The new state-of-the-art microgrid facility is the first of its kind in South Africa. Many have attempted it before and fallen short, and many more are now in the works. It was a huge challenge to get the project up and running, but together with our partners JA Solar, SolarMD and Schletter Mounting Systems, we had the experience, and the know-how, to successfully implement this technically complex project,” he explains.

Gabriel Kroes, Impower head of engineering, says: “We needed to build something future-proof. The newly launched system boasts a solar capacity of 388 kW and a Li-ion battery energy storage system with a capacity of 1.5 MWh.”

“But what sets the Coral Beach facility apart is the unique single-axis tracker system,” he says. “It allows the solar panels to follow the sun’s daily arc. That’s how we optimised the energy yield within the limited space we had to work with. This translates into an elegant, efficient system, offering consistent, reliable power for the residents.”

Harnessing the bright summer sun, the plant withstands the peak morning load and is running at full tilt (no longer discharging batteries) by around 8 to 9 am. As the community usage drops off around noon, and the sunlight reaches its mid-day peak, the BESS system is fully charged, and powering the community.

Financing model

One of the major obstacles to renewable energy adoption has been the prohibitive upfront costs. Impower mitigated this through a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model, allowing the Homeowners Association to pay for the power on a pay-as-you-use basis, and eliminating the need for any upfront capex investment on their part.

Naidoo explains that the project is an “elegantly engineered solution, wrapped in a bespoke commercial model, that allows for a ‘win-win-win’ scenario.”

In this model, Impower and its partners are direct investors, with a real stake in the project’s success. “The model was welcomed by the residents, who didn’t have to pay for the installation or set up. “We’re selling energy to the home-owners’ association, via a long-term PPA. We currently match Eskom’s energy cost, but unlike conventional power, our energy costs won’t rise significantly over the years.

This means that the residents of Coral Beach will enjoy increasing savings on their home energy costs for every year of the 20-year PPA,” he explains.

The Coral Beach estate launch is the latest in a series of wins for Impower which has proven its mettle over a portfolio of success stories. Previous landmark installations include commercial-scale facilities at the Capitec Head Office in Stellenbosch, 24 Central Commercial Park in Sandton, and at the K90 Shopping Centre in Boksburg.

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