The renewable energy sector should focus on commercial ventures in its drive to increase the uptake of solar energy through photovoltaic (PV) panels, rather than the current industry focus on the residential sector, says renewable-energy company Green Habitat.
Green Habit will be exhibiting and launching its products and services at the Africa Energy Indaba, which will take place on February 17 and 18 at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. Green Habitat CEO Maurits Perold will also be one of the speakers at the event.
To date, Green Habitat has installed more than 10 MW of installed PV capacity as part of several solar power projects across South Africa.
Perold tells Engineering News that South Africa has significant potential to market PV energy to the commercial market, including large shopping centres and even hospitals, owing to the large amounts of unused roof space available in South Africa.
“South Africa, in particular, has large amounts of unused roof space, with the majority of this space found in the commercial and industrial sectors,” he says, adding that, if this unused roof space is not exploited to gather the sun’s energy through PV panels, then this energy is simply being wasted.
Perold highlights South Africa’s high average peak yield of sunlight – 5.8 hours a day – as another benefit of exploiting solar energy, especially compared with the average European sunlight peak yield of about 3.4 hours a day. He also points out that South Africa’s peak yield is usually slightly higher.
Green Habitat specialises in designing customised business models for each client, free of charge. To do this, a technician from Green Habitat renders a three-dimensional model of the client’s building, depicting its available rooftop space and design. This modelling provides Green Habitat and its client with an accurate report detailing how many PV panels can be accommodated, how effective they will be, and how they should be angled.
Green Habitat uses this information as a benchmark against the clients’ power utility bill to determine the savings they will achieve by installing a solar power solution.
This report is also forwarded to professional services firm EY, which advises the client about which grants and incentives they qualify for.
“Most clients we have consulted with cannot believe the figures provided in these kinds of reports,” says Perold, adding that Green Habitat has a 100% sales closing ratio.
The average power generation capacity per square metre of PV panels is between 1 800 W and 2 400 W.
Green Habitat has partnered with four other international and local companies to extend its turnkey renewable-energy offering and improve the quality of its solutions, which includes feasibility reports, PV installation and grant procedures.
This collaboration, which will be showcased at the Africa Energy Indaba, includes Green Habitat, China-based PV panel manufacturer Yingli Solar, automation and electrical components company Rubicon, Italy-based inverter company Friem and professional services firm EY.
At the indaba, Green Habitat aims to illustrate the reliability and quality it provides through Yingli Solar’s PV panels.
Green Habitat, with representatives from Friem, will also showcase Friem’s new Cape Town-based inverter manufacturing facility in Cape Town at one of the indaba stands. This facility was finalised at the end of 2014.
Friem’s inverters, which are built specifically to service the South African niche market for central inverters, include 100 kW, 200 kW and 300 kW central inverters. Central inverters offer the benefit of replacing smaller string inverters, many of which are required for large PV installations. “A single central inverter can replace many string inverters, simplifying maintenance, installation costs and inspection procedures,” says Perold.
String inverters were traditionally used for medium to large installations of solar power systems.
Perold tells Engineering News that Green Habitat is one of the only companies in South Africa that can seamlessly integrate solar power solutions with generators to form a single power source for industrial applications.
This hybrid integration system, called Fuel Saver, combines the electricity produced from PV panels and electricity produced by a generator.
Fuel Saver was developed by Germany-based solar power company SMA Solar Technology.
“This application is especially useful for mines located in remote regions, which have traditionally relied on generators for power, and for businesses during times of load-shedding,” says Perold, adding that the Fuel Saver system will drastically decrease fuel consumption of generators.
He points out that, when load-shedding or a blackout occurs, the generator will automatically start and begin the power producing process. In the interim, electricity from the PV panels is fed into a central command unit and integrated with the power from the generator. This allows for the generator’s load to be decreased as the majority of the electricity demand will be supplied by the PV panels. This, in turn, results in the generator requiring less fuel and less maintenance, owing to its decreased workloads.
This system is enhanced to benefit most PV consumption with reduced generator use by ensuring that all power produced by the PV panels is used, while the remaining power demanded is provided by the generator.
The fuel saver system links to a central command unit, which monitors the power coming from the PV panels, regulates the power coming from the generator and controls the throttles of the generator to increase or decrease engine performance.
The system is fully scalable to meet various clients’ demands, says Perold.