Solar Power and Battery Storage Light Up Eastern Cape Estate

Impower installs state-of-the-art facility that combines solar PV panels, lithium-ion batteries and a single-axis tracker system.

by Motoni Olodun

Residents of Coral Beach Residential Estate in the Eastern Cape are enjoying uninterrupted power supply thanks to a state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery energy storage system (BESS) installed by Impower. The facility, which was launched in January 2024, is one of the first of its kind in South Africa and a flagship project for the solar installation company.

The estate, which comprises 120 luxury homes, used to rely on a busy commercial line that was frequently disrupted by copper theft and vandalism. This resulted in long and frequent power outages, in addition to the regular load-shedding imposed by the national utility Eskom. A conventional backup power system that could last for two to five hours was not sufficient for the estate’s needs.

Impower, in partnership with JA Solar, SolarMD, and Schletter Mounting Systems, came up with an innovative solution that combines solar PV panels, lithium-ion batteries, and a single-axis tracker system. The tracker system allows the panels to follow the sun’s daily arc, optimizing the energy yield within the limited space available. The solar PV capacity is 388 kW and the battery storage capacity is 1.5 MWh, providing the estate with eight hours of backup power and significant cost savings.

The project is also a showcase of Impower’s unique power purchase agreement (PPA) model, which enables the homeowners’ association to pay for the power on a pay-as-you-use basis, without any upfront capital expenditure. Impower and its partners are direct investors in the project, with a real stake in its success. The PPA is for 20 years, and Impower matches Eskom’s energy cost, but without the steep annual increases.

Jay Naidoo, CEO of Impower, said the project was a huge challenge, but also a great opportunity to demonstrate the company’s expertise and vision. “We needed to build something future-proof. This is an elegantly engineered solution, wrapped in a bespoke commercial model, that allows for a win-win-win scenario,” he said.

Gabriel Kroes, head of engineering at Impower, said the facility was running smoothly and efficiently, providing consistent and reliable power for the residents. “It harnesses the sun, withstands the peak morning load, and is fully charged by noon. At a time when so many are living in the dark due to load shedding, we’re proud to be blazing a new trail with a solar-powered estate,” he said.

Charles Pittaway, owner of Coral Beach Estate, said he was delighted with the outcome of the project, which has improved the quality of life and the property value of the estate. “We can ensure our Coral Beach Estate community remains unaffected by load shedding, while also giving back to the environment. We’re committed to doing our part to create a brighter future for our community and our country,” he said.

The Coral Beach project is part of a growing trend of renewable energy adoption in South Africa, which has abundant solar and wind resources. According to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the country aims to increase its renewable energy capacity from 9.5 GW in 2020 to 39.2 GW by 2030, reducing its dependence on coal and lowering its greenhouse gas emissions. Impower is one of the leading players in this sector, with over 100 MW of solar PV projects completed or in progress across the country.

Source: Engineering News

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