Understanding solar power and renewable energy in South Africa

Posted on Mar 25, 2020

The rate at which non-renewable energy resources, like oil, gas and coal, are consumed is growing at an extremely fast rate. With the possibility of these resources running out, it is becoming increasingly important to look for alternative options.

It is imperative for South Africans to start shifting their mindset to one of better resource management, particularly with uses of solar power and other renewable energy sources, like wind power.

A new perception of thinking needs to be applied when one goes the renewable energy route. The way in which you use energy needs to be changed. It doesn’t make sense to buy a solar solution, but then continue to waste energy in other ways. A general rule when trying to live an energy-efficient lifestyle is to use less, be wiser and only run your sources when you need to. It can be a long process, but getting off-the-grid, or simply just supplementing your household energy, is an option that more people should look into.

What are solar power and renewable energy

A lot of people want to go the route towards using solar power, but very few people actually understand what it is and how it works.

Solar power is the process of converting sunlight into usable energy. The sun is always producing energy, making it a renewable resource. An advantage of solar energy is that it doesn’t release any pollutants in the process of converting the energy - making it a more earth-friendly energy source. It’s a sustainable resource, is easy to install and requires little maintenance. 

Some of the misconceptions regarding solar power are that it only works in warm and sunny climates. This is not true as the panels harness the sun’s radiation energy, not its temperature. So all you really need is a sunny day! 

Another misconception is that solar panels are useless at night. While yes, they won’t be producing any energy at night, you can still draw on the surplus energy that was produced during the day. To get off-the-grid completely, you will need to buy solar batteries to store the energy that exceeds your use during the day to then use at night (or on a rainy day). 

Another misconception is that it is too expensive to set up for an average household. Your initial installation costs will depend on the size of your property and the system that you have installed. There are various options available. The cost of solar power equipment has also been driven down with the advances in technology and the increased competition in the market. It’s best to chat to a professional, like a member of the team at Elsumo, to discuss various options available and which systems will offer the best return on investment for your needs.

Wind energy is also a form of renewable energy. It is the process in which wind is used to generate power through the use of wind turbines. The wind turbines convert the kinetic energy from the wind to into mechanical power, a generator then converts this into electricity. This mechanical power can also be used directly for specific tasks, like pumping water.

Solar power and renewable energy in South Africa

Solar power is a great way of coping with the ongoing increases in energy costs in South Africa, along with the looming threat of more load-shedding. You can decide to go completely off-the-grid or to simply supplement your household energy intake by starting off slowly with a smaller system.

The southern African region is fortunate enough to have sunshine all year round. Most areas in South Africa see an average of more than 2,500 hours of sunshine each year, with solar-radiation levels averaging between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in one day. South Africa’s local resource of solar energy is one of the highest in the world.

Solar-energy has a number of potential uses in the country, encouraging development in the South African solar-equipment industry. There are recent developments within the renewable energy front in South Africa, including the launch of the commercial operation of a 100 MW solar plant in the Northern Cape. The plant will provide clean and reliable energy to 179,000 homes in the local community of Kathu. It is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide output by six million tons over a 20-year period.

Solar power for business and industries

More and more forward-thinking South African businesses are starting to consider life without Eskom, and are implementing plans to generate their own energy.

Makro, as an example, has erected solar panels on the roof of its Makro Carnival store as well as on the parking bays of its Strubens Valley store in Johannesburg. The Carnival store is able to generate 60-80% of its energy needs during the day. Anglo Platinum and Sibanye-Stillwater are two other high profile companies in South Africa that are planning to generate their own electricity through solar panels.

The benefits of using renewable energy resources for your business include reducing your energy bills as well as reducing the risk of service disruption from power cuts. It also helps with your public appearance - the public will be pleased to see that you are looking at more sustainable energy sources. Reducing your carbon emissions and becoming a ‘green’ business is a great way to become a leader in your industry and community. 

Possible barriers to solar power

As mentioned earlier, one of the main barriers of going off-the-grid and seeking alternative energy sources is that people think that it is too costly. They don’t know which solution will be best for them and their needs, and they aren’t sure how to find out.

Elsumo is one of Southern Africa’s leading service providers, suppliers and distributors of comprehensively tested, high-quality solar-powered, borehole, booster, drainage and sewage pumps. Our 21K Solar Ready Motor Controller is one of our leading solar power products. Read more about how it works here https://bit.ly/2vKhESe

Our team of professionals at Elsumo is highly experienced in the field of solar-powered energy, with a great deal of knowledge on the subject. Please do not hesitate to ask us any questions regarding solar-powered energy and renewable resources. We will happily help you start the move off-the-grid.

Visit our showrooms in Cape Town to discuss your product requirements, call us, or fill in our contact form, and we’ll respond to your query.