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The South African Homeowners Guide to Alternative Energy

Date : 03 April 2019

With Eskom’s unreliable power supply and hefty price hikes, an increasing number of South African homeowners are starting to consider alternative energy sources. Just last month, the public utility provider, which generates around 95% of the nation's electricity, was granted a 13.8% tariff increase for 2019/20. And, with electricity prices set to soar by almost 30% over the next three years, there’s arguably no better time to invest in alternative energy sources than now.

But with that being said, there are many homeowners who might not know which alternative energy sources are available to them. And those who do, might not know how to make a clean break from conventional electricity. To help reduce this knowledge gap, we spoke to the renewable energy experts at Kestrel Renewable Energy to develop this helpful local guide to alternative energy.

Alternative energy sources

By definition, alternative energy refers to any energy source alternative to fossil fuels. While South Africa is still largely dependent on coal-based electricity, there are a number of viable alternatives, including wind and solar power. The choice of whether to use wind or solar, or both, will all depend on the intended use, the amount of power needed and the location of the intended use.

In South Africa, energy assessments are conducted by consultants who are able to advise you on the correct combination of renewable energy technologies for your unique energy needs. Generally, wind is in good supply along the coast and a wind turbine would therefore take preference if it is to be used in coastal provinces.

Inland provinces, on the other hand, do not have enough average wind speed to recommend a wind solution and a solar solution would therefore rather be used. If there is a large power requirement for running a house completely off-grid, it would be best to use a combination of wind and solar to provide maximum efficiency and power output. This is referred to as a hybrid system.

Alternative energy systems

There are three main alternative energy systems you might consider, as follows:

  • Off-grid systems – Off-grid systems are entirely independent of an external electricity provider. They are ideal where an electricity provider is unavailable such as farms and rural communities. Off-grid systems may comprise of a number of elements. For example, the Kestrel off-grid solution is comprised of a wind turbine and solar panel hybrid system, as well as a battery bank and power management system. All three of these elements work together to provide a stable source of electricity.
  • Grid connected systems –Grid connected systems are used to supplement existing grid power. These systems have widespread commercial and domestic use, helping South Africans to ‘go green’ and have the convenience of a grid connection at the same time. Kestrel’s grid-tie systems can be designed for your energy usage. In Port Elizabeth, for example, the number of kWh generated from these systems can be as high as 3 500+ kWh per month. Keep in mind that the average electrified household uses ±4 198 kWh per year.
  • Water Pumping Systems –In addition to off-grid and grid connected systems, you might also find yourself in need of a water pumping solution, especially if you reside on a farm or in a remote community. These systems are used to move water from a borehole, river or dam to a reservoir; and are proven to be more efficient than traditional windmills. For example, the Kestrel wind turbine and pump solution can deliver as much as 2 500 litres of water per hour.

Alternative energy considerations

There are a few things to consider when installing an alternative energy system at your home.

  • The area in which you reside plays a very important role in determining whether to install an off-grid or grid connected system.
  • Should you wish to install a wind turbine, there must be no significant nearby obstructions such as a large tree or building as these can hinder wind speed.
  • System installation usually requires permission from local authorities, so its important to always check with them first before you have a system installed.

Alternative energy costs

Below is a breakdown of how much you might expect to spend on an alternative energy system for your home:

  • Wind turbines –While they do vary in price, wind turbines generally fall within the range of R46 047 to R138 995 ex VAT, depending on their size.
  • Water pump systems –There are two main price considerations for water pump systems. First is the system equipment and sundry equipment which is ± R104 000 ex VAT. Then the installation cost is added, based on the distance of the location and the number of hours needed to complete the job.
  • Solar systems –Solar systems vary greatly in price due to power requirements and the rand/dollar exchange rate. However, to give a rough idea, you could have a solar system that generates around 18 kWh/day for ± R50 000 or a solar system that generates around 36 kWh/day for ± R100 000.

Alternative energy benefits

In addition to offering long-term financial benefits for the average South African homeowner, alternative energy solutions can have a positive impact on the country’s natural environment as well as the health and socio-economic environments. As Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever once said, “Renewable energy could reduce emissions but also create jobs and improve public health”. We believe there are three main benefits to using alternative energy sources, as follows:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – By using alternative energy sources, less strain is placed on current energy producers. This reduces the amount of coal that needs to be burned, which in turn reduces the Global Warming effect that is currently occurring.
  • Improvement of public health – A reduction in the use of fossil fuels, as mentioned above, improves public health due to the reduction in air pollution from coal plants.
  • Long-term savings and energy independency – The initial spend on an off-grid system can be quite a pricey investment, but the long-term savings outweigh the cost. Homeowners also wouldn’t have to rely on Eskom for their power needs and won’t have to deal with the dreaded load-shedding.

As a leading alternative energy solution provider for the local and global market, Kestrel proudly advocates alternative energy as a worthwhile investment for South African homeowners. In comparison to purchasing conventional utility power, Kestrel’s solutions are environmentally friendly, customisable to your needs and can even enhance the value of your property. If you would like to reduce your carbon footprint and save on your long-term energy costs, then contact the Kestrel team today for a quote on an alternative energy system for your home.