Our business partners in South Africa have featured in the April edition of SABI magazine, the industry voice for the South Africa Irrigation Institute.
With energy reliability becoming an increasing issue in the country, solar PV can provide a cost effective solution for a wide array of agricultural applications, not least the energy intensive process of irrigating parched arable land.
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While some sectors may be reporting sluggish business, not so the solar PV (Solar Photovoltaic) arena.
With offices in Somerset West in the Western Cape, solar PV company RenEnergy Africa is another solar PV group SABI magazine spoke with who is experiencing expanding interest amongst South Africans exploring solar options.
RenEnergy Africa summarises its business as follows “We design and install optimized bespoke Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage solutions. We are a full EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction), with highly experienced personnel. Each design and installation is done in house (not sub-contracted out), to ensure utmost quality of work.
“Our expert understanding of Solar PV solutions, is reflected in our uncompromising quality of design, installation and commissioning for a reliable 25 year Solar PV electricity generation system. This is reflected in our results of not only meeting but exceeding generation targets and our customer’s energy requirements.”
Jean-Roux Heyns, business development manager for RenEnergy Africa, which has a head office in the United Kingdom, says the alternative power landscape is without a doubt growing. Indeed, they believe, that given several highly advantageous factors such as sunlight being a free and renewable energy source and the technology (which has no moving parts) being close to maintenance-free – all in the face of escalating electricity costs, solar PV is a win-win solution.
Heyns says the market in South Africa will continue to develop, unfolding in much the same fashion as the European solar markets, for example: Germany, United Kingdom, France etc. Notably, we have far better generation figures here in South Africa – with our sun irradiation – as compared with European irradiance.
He comments further: “With the advantages of solar PV and prices being more competitive (prices have gone beyond costparity) than grid-purchased or Eskom energy, the landscape continues to grow.
“Regulations have already begun changing to foster and develop renewable energy. An example of which is 100% depreciation of your Solar PV project in year 1 (under 1 MW) and Netmetering/ banking of energy if you are on an Eskom medium voltage network “
As solar PV is a comparatively new offering in South Africa where fossil fuel has dominated for some time, there is a lot of information and knowledge-sharing that invariably needs to be done. The company invests effort and time in knowledge and information sharing with customers and potential clientele. They recently held a highly successful Open Day in the Western Cape, for example.
Adding extra phases
Reflects Heyns: “Consider that five years ago, most businesses had not yet given much thought to Solar PV. In the initial years we spent time educating customers about benefits and the various options available. What is evident is that our customers who have carried out projects, have great demand in conducting new projects or additional phases. This is very much due to seeing the actual returns and savings. “
RenEnergy is very active in the agricultural arena as well as business and residential sectors. They operate nationwide and have completed three projects for North West agri business NWK in Lichtenburg, and in fact are working on an additional two projects for NWK. “Presently we have high demand from our customers, who, once experiencing the benefits of solar
PV in their energy equation, are typically wanting us to explore additional phases and to further reduce reliance on grid, to gain further dependence.”
In terms of agricultural demand for solar PV, RenEnergy believe that competitiveness is becoming of greater importance in the sector. Comments Heyns: “Simply put, Solar PV is cheaper, allows control and competitiveness in electricity provision. It is a cheaper and reliable form of generation that can be forecasted accurately utilising area specific historical data. The savings go beyond 25 years, with guaranteed generation for 25 years, still producing 80% in year 25. This fulfils short term, mid-term and long term risks associated in electricity costs for business.”
RenEnergy is very passionate about engineering and design, says Heyns. They spend a lot of time understanding a customer’s business requirements, energy usage patterns and design plus engineering to ensure effective solar PV systems are commissioned.
“Our interest is not in the size of installation, but rather in the right fit. As Solar PV is modular, the application can be expanded in phases and as budget permits. Sometimes, customers require access to additional capacity (kVA), sometimes they want to be more independent, some want to maximise cost efficiency and ensure competitiveness and maximise savings,” he says.
Saving energy for pumping
RenEnergy is an international company, was founded in 2006. The team has received international training in the UK, as well as Germany. “There is over 200 MW or 200,000 kW installation experience within the team. Our installations are done country wide. As per our motto, we are a proud “partner in power” and it is imperative that results are achieved. We are proud of our track record and of our professional and experienced staff. These are the foundations on which our business is built,” elaborates Heyns.
On the vital issue of demand for solar PV installations as a part of irrigation cost containment, RenEnergy say that, in fact, they very active in delivering solutions to save energy for pumping and the movement of water.
Heyns says: “We are currently busy with a 51 kWp ground mount system which provides 70% of the peak power to the pumps (grid providing the balance), for attaining 60% savings. We have grid/ tied Solar PV systems for the movement of water, which is a very effective storage mechanism.
“We also have off-grid pumping solutions, if full pumping requirements can be met during daylight hours. Some farmers believe that they need to replace their pumps and existing motors, which is not the case. We can add the equipment necessary to provide solar pumping equipment. “
Expert tips from RenEnergy for those just starting to explore solar PV for their farm or enterprise?
“If you can, bring a Solar PV partner in during the planning stages and before the equipment has been procured. This allows the full spectrum of equipment to be selected so that the puzzle pieces suit the outcomes required.
“As indicated, we are able to work with existing pumps and motors as well. We work together with designers, pump specialists and irrigation specialists to provide the correct solution. We work together with other experts, to bring the right solution to the table,” he advises.