At the height of load shedding in 2014 / 2015, the Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) was challenged by members and business alike, to propose methods and strategies to mitigate losses that arose from the load shedding – without buying generators. This challenge was readily taken up by the Chamber’s Energy Forum, who with a diverse array of knowledge and experience began working on the problem.
The Energy Forum decided that the best way to show businesses how to mitigate against load shedding and reduce energy demand, would be to do this project oneself and lead by example. This lead to a decision to green the Chamber and provide an example for members and businesses alike to do the same.
Through business partners and companies, we started by simply assessing our own demand and efficiencies. As such, a thorough energy audit was completed through the grant support programme of the National Business Initiative (NBi) and the consulting firm Carifro. This report indicated that energy demand could be lowered by simply adopting new technology and energy saving devices such as LED lighting, passive motion / occupancy sensors and the inclusion of a grid-tied solar photo voltaic (PV) system to supplement daytime demand.
However this did not solve the actual loss of electricity during load shedding. To overcome this, it was agreed that a backup system would be the best response. Two, 6 Kilowatt uninterrupted power supply (UPS) backup inverters connected to a battery bank, would power all essentials during load shedding. Only air conditioners would be excluded from the backup system due to their high energy demand.
Responding to a tender process sent out by the Energy Forum, renewable energy manufacturers and suppliers responded with zeal, wherein almost all materials and products were supplied at cost in exchange for future advertising and marketing that they would receive relating to this project.
All installation was done by Ellies Renewable Energy and Master Artisan Academy of South Africa.
Companies who gave generously are:
National Business Initiative
First National Battery for the battery bank
Ellies Renewable Energy for overall design, installation and activation of system
Black Lite Solar for the CIGS thin film PV panels
Pia Solar for the solar system racking
UTI for transport
At the time of writing, a fully operational renewable energy project is running and functional.
Specifications of the BKCOB system are as follows:
5kw Grid-tied solar PV system using CIGS thin-film solar panels
Ellies UPS backup system connected to First National Battery gel-filled battery banks
Various LED lighting and motion and occupancy sensors
Support by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) Electrical Department is acknowledged and appreciated – especially in processing the application and approval to operate such a system within their municipal boundaries.
Cost of the installation is anticipated to be fully recovered in 36 months of continuous use. A similar system at retail prices would be repaid over a 60 months based on electricity demand.
The Energy Forum has documented the entire process from the auditing, to system design and specification, installation and operationalisation. This will serve as a blue print for chamber members to access the best quality advice on what works and what doesn’t work, without having to make costly mistakes. The first commercial project is now under discussion and it is hoped that this spurs other companies to take advantage of renewable energy options to reduce overhead costs, save the environment, be carbon conscious and lead Buffalo City into a new greener future.
This project has catapulted the BKCOB into a new league as it has now become the first “green” business chamber in South Africa and it is believed that it is the only green chamber on the African Continent.