Robben Island battery bank

Robben Island’s 666.4 kW solar PV and battery storage microgrid

Last week, the Minister of Tourism opened the Robben Island solar PV microgrid, designed and constructed by SOLA Future Energy. This system, incorporating one of the southern Hemisphere’s largest battery banks, is made of 1960 mono crystalline solar modules, ready to produce 666.4 kW of power and 2420 lithium-ion battery cells, able to store 837 kWh worth of electricity and supply 500 kW worth of peak power.

Designing a smart grid

SOLA Future Energy designed Robben Island’s Microgrid over the course of two months. Designing the PV plant incorporated several phases, including the replacement of a mini-substation to adequately incorporate PV into Robben Island’s existing grid, designing of the ground-mounted solar farm and placement, the battery bank and controls.

Phase 1 – Understanding the island’s energy requirements and solar resource

Robben Island Tourism

Robben Island attracts thousands of tourists each day

The first phase of the designing a solar PV microgrid was to understand the energy requirements of the island – and what solar resource is available. With thousands of tourists visiting Robben Island each day, as well as 100 staff living permanently on the island, a lighthouse and a desalination plant, the island’s energy requirements are quite significant. Understanding these requirements was the first phase to knowing what type and size of system to design.

Typically, when designing rooftop solar systems, it is important to consider shading from other buildings or large trees, but with Robben Island’s placement and shrubby vegetation, the solar resource is excellent and relatively undisturbed. In addition, the ability to place the modules at a fixed-tilt axis in a north facing area, made them ideal for solar penetration, right into the late afternoon.

Phase 2 – Understanding the existing grid and how to incorporate into it

robben island power supply

Robben Island power supply was traditionally provided by diesel generators. Last week, the Island officially announced it’s conversion to solar energy

Solar PV usually powers a building directly by turning its Direct Current electricity (DC) into Alternating Current electricity (AC), through solar inverters. This power is usually supplied in 400kV size, which is the power that typically supplies plug-points and electric outlets in buildings. However, incorporating into an energy grid requires a different kind of connection.

Robben Island’s energy grid runs off of a historically-erected 11kV line. In order to incorporate the PV system into the island’s grid (as opposed to, for example, a single building), a mini-substation needed to be designed and built in order to convert the PV plant’s supply of 400 kV to the grid’s 11kV. This substation replaced one of the island’s existing, but too small, substations. Once erected, it allowed the PV farm to feed into the island’s grid.

Phase 3 – Modelling and simulating the PV and battery resource

Microgrid performance on Robben Island

Data insight helps to monitor the microgrid’s performance

Once the solar farm was designed, based on the energy needs of the island, the design needed to incorporate the battery system to store excess solar power, taking into account the scope of the project. The battery bank is made up of 2420 lithium-ion battery cells. Like cell phone or laptop batteries, lithium-ion batteries have a long life and have a higher threshold to discharge and charge with larger power. Unlike their lead acid counterparts, lithium-ion batteries can use up to 96% of their capacity, making them a highly efficient choice to support the longevity of the solar PV farm, which will last over 25 years.

A large part of designing the battery system to incorporate fully with PV is the programming of the actual microgrid. The programming consists of scheduling the generators to switch off when the batteries reach 30% State of Charge (SOC). When the batteries reach 15% SOC, the generators are scheduled to switch on, making sure that there is a continuous source of power on the island. The wireless system between the three different components allows the batteries to “talk” to the PV. This decision-making ability, and intelligent control in each device, makes the microgrid a smart grid that ensures seamless power to the island.

Helping not only the efficiency, but the quality, of energy supply

Diesel generators on Robben Island

Diesel generators to provide energy when battery bank is depleted

One of the unexpected outcomes for Robben Island is a better quality energy supply for the island’s operations. Previously, the quality of supply had peaks and troughs, meaning that equipment could be affected by unbalanced supply. However, the new battery inverters are able to stabilise the grid, making the power better quality overall, and in turn affect equipment and machinery less.

Although the microgrid contains diesel generators, the Robben Island microgrid is unique because it does not rely on the diesel generators to function. Usually, solar PV works by attaching to an existing grid – or diesel generators. However, with a special inverter, the microgrid contains a virtual generator machine (VGM), which allows the PV to run without any generators at all.

Robben Island Microgrid Infographic

In conclusion

SOLA Future Energy has carried out the design and construction over the last year and a half on Robben Island. Although the design of the system took about two months of non-stop design time, there were several other considerations in working on the World Heritage Site. The video of the Robben Island Solar Project tells the story of the island’s symbolic transformation and its relevance as a microcosm of South Africa. The future of Africa is powered by the sun, and we’re there to make it happen.

Robben Island Tourism

Video clip shows the transformation of Robben Island into a beacon of hope

When SOLA found out that they had won the contract to build a solar PV microgrid on Robben Island, commissioned by the National Department of Tourism, they were determined to spread the story of the project far and wide. With the help of video-experts Lima Bean, they created a short film that tells the story of Robben Island’s transformation.

A perfect set for a transformation story

Robben Island is known for many things, but particularly for being world heritage site on the tip of South Africa, and “a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity”. It is also known for its beautiful, stark scenery and ecological diversity. Yet the island still requires energy – the ongoing tourism, desalination plant, and local community use 2 million kWh per year. This power was historically supplied only by diesel generators, but since July 2017, is being supplied by the sun. It is the perfect setting for a story of transformation and hope.

Robben Island solar PV microgrid

Robben Island solar PV microgrid

A symbolic transformation

“We wanted to show that Robben Island is a great example of how a difficult historical context does not prevent a brighter future,” said James Bisset, the short film’s director. A key component to the symbolic side of the story was the input from Vusumzi Mcongo, an ex-political prisoner who arrived on Robben Island in 1978. Now 63 years old, Mr Mcongo still lives on Robben Island, and works in the Robben Island Museum, taking tours through the prison. “I have a passion for this place,” he states.

As someone who not only works, but also lives on the island, Mr Mcongo is part of the new energy story: he is part of Robben Island’s transformation from old power to the new, and will benefit from the new system. Robben Island has a difficult history – one of banishment and imprisonment – but, like Mr Mcongo, the future of the island is one of hope rather than pain.

“Telling the story of the Robben Island Microgrid was very important to us,” SOLA CEO Dom Wills stated. “The transformation of Robben Island is symbolic: it shows that there is hope and inspiration for South Africa and potential for innovation in the future. We want South Africa and the region to see that affordable, clean energy is here today.”

Robben Island Tourism

Robben Island attracts thousands of tourists each day

Solar PV and batteries: the future of energy

The Robben Island solar PV microgrid is a story of hope because of the technological innovation at its core. Solar energy uses the sun’s power to create electricity. Traditionally, solar PV works during the day and requires additional power sources at night, when the sun doesn’t shine. However, with the strides in battery technology over the last few years, battery storage has huge potential to change the game and make solar a viable option for going completely off-grid.

The Robben Island solar microgrid is an example of such a game-changer. The generators on the island historically used an expensive and fossil resource, diesel, which was shipped to the island in order to generate the electricity required. The new solar microgrid stores the excess energy created by the sun in the middle of the day in lithium ion batteries, powering the island well into the night. By the time the generators kick in, the consumption of the energy is low, and ultimately Robben Island can significantly reduce its reliance on diesel, even during the winter months.

Robben Island solar PV construction

Construction of the Robben Island solar PV farm

Partnerships make the video possible

Suppliers to the project partnered with SOLA and Lima Bean to make the creation of the video story possible. ABB, the inverter supplier to the project, and Canadian Solar, who supplied the solar modules, were both key partners in enabling the video to take place. “Making a video like this is not cheap, and we were grateful for the support of our partners to make the video possible,” said Dom Wills.

Robben Island solar PV microgrid

The Robben Island solar microgrid shows the power of solar PV and batteries

It has been almost a year and a half since the Robben Island Solar Microgrid project was awarded to SOLA Future Energy. After a thorough process of designing, planning and implementing, the project has been launched – and is a demonstration of how solar PV, combined with batteries, can make an excellent combination. This blog post describes just why the solar microgrid is so effective, and how the rest of South Africa can follow suit.

A microgrid on a historic monument

Many people know Robben Island for its reputation as the prison that held several high-profile political prisoners such as Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela. Over the years, the island has also been a leper colony and a host site of WW2 garrisons. The island, therefore, has a rich political history – one which draws the thousands of tourists to its shores daily.

In addition to the historical significance, Robben island is also a biodiversity hotspot, with several bird species finding refuge and breeding grounds on the rocky shore. The African jackass penguin – an endangered bird found only on the southern coast of Africa – also calls the island home.

Robben Island Solar Microgrid protects islands biological diversity - Penguins

Robben Island is a world heritage site with biological diversity

Energy to Robben Island has historically been supplied by diesel generators. To fulfil the energy requirements of the island, around 600 000 litres of diesel were consumed on an annual basis – at great cost to the island’s administration, and at great cost to the sensitive environment on the island.

The solar microgrid was commissioned by the National Department of Tourism in order to promote sustainable tourism at key monuments around South Africa, as part of their Tourism Incentive Programme. The microgrid, consisting of a 666.4 kW solar farm, 837 kW powerstore and multiple controllers, will move the island away from its reliance on diesel generators and toward the sustainable resource of the sun.

The World Heritage status of the island made it a very sensitive area to carry out construction, and environmental and political considerations meant that the site for the PV farm was carefully chosen. SOLA staff had to also be sent for training to handle penguins, snakes and wildlife and how to handle archaeological artifacts that might be discovered underground.

What’s so great about a solar microgrid?

A combination of tourism, desalination plant and local community means that Robben Island uses over 2 Million kWh of electricity annually. The solar microgrid consists of several elements that will produce almost 1Million kWh of electricity annually, significantly reducing costs of buying diesel, ferrying it to the island and burning it for electricity generation.

The solar microgrid uses the most abundant resource on the island – the sun – and converts this energy seamlessly into electricity, which can be used for operations. In combination, the battery system stores any excess energy produced by the sun, for use during the night or on cloudy days. If both the battery system and the sun are low, the smart microgrid controllers trigger the diesel generators to start up, ensuring that the island never experiences energy shortages or blackouts.

Robben Island Replace Diesel Generators With Solar Power PV Microgrid

Robben Island has historically used diesel generators to provide the power needed on the island.

The combination of solar and batteries, a revolutionary step, is the key aspect of the return on investment for the island. The solar microgrid will ensure that the island reduces its fossil fuel consumption dramatically, by nearly 250 000 litres of diesel per annum. This will result in a reduction the Island’s carbon emissions by 820 tons, as well as a significant monetary saving. The system will last over 20 years.

How a smart solar microgrid works

Usually, solar systems are grid-tied – meaning that they supplement power supply and remain connected to the central electricity grid. Some also produce excess power which feeds back into the grid. A microgrid, in contrast, works independent of a centralised electricity grid, yet retains the functionality of it. This means that it contains multiple controllers that switch power sources as and when necessary, without ever interrupting the power supply.

In the Robben Island Microgrid, there are three key power production aspects. The first of these is a solar farm, consisting of 1960 mono-crystalline modules that produces 666.4 kW of power.

Robben Island Solar Microgrid Uses 1960 solar modules

1960 solar modules to provide energy on Robben Island

The second is a battery bank, consisting of 2420 lithium-ion battery cells, ready to store 837 kWh worth of electricity and supply 500 kV worth of peak power.

Robben Island Solar Power PV Microgrid battery bank

2420 lithium-ion batteries store solar energy for use after hours

The third aspect is the diesel generators, which supply power to the island when the solar farm is not producing energy (for example at night), and the battery bank is depleted.

Old Diesel generators on Robben Island Replaced With Solar Power

Diesel generators to provide energy when battery bank is depleted

Combined, these three power production elements, coupled with a set of smart controllers, supply Robben Island power – all of the time.

Microgrid controls a smart approach to energy management

The microgrid control system is based on a distributed intelligence approach which ensures that the grid behaves smartly for seamless power production. Each of the points of power production have a logic controller that controls the power output at each of these points, whilst reporting back to the other controllers. The system monitors the current load by adding the current production of each of the power sources; each of the controllers then adds a safety factor to the current load and always makes sure it has enough power, immediately available, to supply the load and handle sudden increases in load, such as the operation of the 200 kW desalination plant. The only centralised component in the system is a data-collection system, similar to a small SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which allows for set points to be altered and measured values to be recorded.

The potential of solar and batteries: a Robben Island case study

Solar PV has long been a more cost-effective energy source than the central grid in South Africa, but it’s the combination of solar with batteries that will make the technology truly disruptive, as it has the potential to make the centralised grid redundant. The Robben Island Microgrid is a great case study to explore the true value of solar PV and battery combinations, because it is already independent of the central grid. During its first two months of operation, the island produced 187 000 kWh clean electricity through solar power, resulting in 53 685 litres of diesel being saved, an equivalent of 495 tons CO2 emissions.

Solar PV Microgrid performance on Robben Island

Data insight helps to monitor the microgrid’s performance

The above graph shows Robben Island’s energy demand (blue line), supported by the generator through the evening. Around 6.30 am, the solar system (green line) starts to produce power, and by 9.30 am, the solar system starts to supply the entire island’s energy demand. By 10am, the solar power starts to surpass the island’s demand, and charges the batteries. Once the batteries are full, the solar power curtails to meet the demand of the island. Once the power starts to go down at 6pm, the batteries are activated and start to discharge, finishing their power around 8.30 pm when the generators start up again.

This graph demonstrates that the solar farm can easily meet – and exceed – the needs of the island during hours of light, even in winter. The rate at which the battery bank charges suggests that an even bigger battery bank could be possible – and the island could rely even less on the diesel generators.

The rapidly decreasing price of battery tech

Based on the above graph, it is clear that an even bigger battery bank on Robben Island would further decrease the already substantially reduced spend on diesel and its accompanied environmental degradation. As such, how can projects start to install solar PV and batteries to meet enough demand to go off grid entirely? The future is closer than we think.

In 2016, the costs of a lithium-ion battery cell had come down 73% from 7 years prior. Even during the building of the project over 12 months, the cost of the tech went down significantly. The graph below, published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, demonstrates the cost reduction of batteries over the last 7 years.

 

 

decreasing costs of lithium-ion batteries with Solar PV Microgrids

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

 Conclusion: how South Africans can learn from Robben Island’s Example

Robben Island has a difficult history – one of banishment and pain – yet today it serves as a heritage site and a reminder to thousands of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. In a similar vein, Robben Island’s energy history is one marred by reliance on fossil fuels and environmental degradation. The Robben Island solar microgrid shows an inspiring example of the way in which communities can adopt clean, efficient and more affordable energy – to the benefit of the local community and the surrounding environment.

“It’s been inspiring to work on a project like Robben Island,” said SOLA CEO, Dom Wills. “The island is in many ways a microcosm of South Africa, and we hope that its example will inspire other African communities to follow suit. Adopting clean energy is not only possible – it is now affordable. What Robben Island has taught us is that the future of efficient energy is within our reach.”

Robben Island Microgrid Infographic

Do you know of a community who could benefit from solar microgrid technology? Contact us or use our solar calculator to find out if it is viable. The future of Africa is powered by the sun.

 

SOLA obtains ISO 9001:2015

SOLA Future Energy obtains ISO 9001:2015 Quality Certification

SOLA Future Energy has obtained its ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems certification. The certification, maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is an internationally-recognised metric to validate the quality of a company’s management systems. Having the certification shows SOLA’s commitment to offering a world-class level of service for designing, constructing and maintaining PV systems.

SOLA Future Energy is a company that believes in powering Africa’s prosperity through clean, affordable energy. Since its establishment, the company has constructed over 12.5 MW of solar systems, mainly on commercial and industrial buildings, retail centres and microgrids. The ISO 9001:2015 certification was awarded once a process of internal and external auditing of SOLA’s ability to design, construct and maintain solar PV systems was completed.

“Certification for the standard was a lengthy process that involved the participation of the whole company,” said Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy. In May 2016, SOLA began implementing the quality management system, in line with the latest ISO9001:2015 standard. “Over a period of 6 months, the quality team worked with SOLA staff members and management to intricately understand the processes and management structures used to deliver on solar projects. Each process was formally documented and a baseline for improvements was established,” Wills added.

The Quality Standard, which formally documents processes, as well as roles and responsibilities and applicable metrics, also involves SOLA suppliers. “Our management-approved suppliers list forms part of our Quality Certification, and it ensures our control over the quality of goods and services received by clients,” said Wills.

SOLA Future Energy recently signed an agreement with Atterbury Property Developments to provide PV for their portfolio of properties, and has also opened a Johannesburg branch to service clients across Africa. “The company is growing from strength to strength, and our ISO 9001 certification is part of that,” Wills stated.

The ISO9001:2015 certificate is valid for 3 years and the company will undergo yearly audits by the certification body, TÜV Rheinland.

SOLA ISO 9001:2015 certification

SOLA and Atterbury Property Developments partnership to see 20 MW solar capacity built

SOLA Future Energy and Atterbury partnership to see 20 MW solar capacity built over next few years

SOLA Future Energy and Atterbury Property Developments have partnered to provide high quality solar energy and electrical storage solutions to the Atterbury portfolio of properties. The parties entered an agreement in May 2017, which will guide the installation of 20MW of solar PV systems on properties which Atterbury have developed.

James Ehlers, Managing Director of the Atterbury Property Developments, stated, “We as Atterbury realised that we needed solar-smart solutions, as this will become a vital part of property industry going forward.  We have taken a decision to partner with specialists in the industry. After extensive consultation with role players in the industry, SOLA were our partners of choice and we look forward to working with a leader in the field of solar technology.”

With over 12.5 MW of solar capacity under operation across several large rooftop PV systems, SOLA Future Energy is well positioned to carry out the work for Atterbury. SOLA will provide the design and engineering services for the full 20MW, ensuring that the solar solutions to all of these developments are optimised. They will also manage the installation during the project development phase, and will assist Atterbury with the ongoing operation and maintenance of the systems.

Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy, commented, “We are excited to work with a progressive partner such as Atterbury who share our vision in decentralised energy.  Solar PV presents an excellent opportunity to reduce operating costs over the long term, increasing property value and competitiveness.  Working on a bulk portfolio also allows us to best advise on the overall solar strategy for the group.” After a solar system is installed, it generally pays itself off within five years, providing the property with at least 20 further years of free energy.

The cost reductions of solar technology have made investment in solar systems an essential consideration for property owners in achieving cost efficiency and enhancing yields. Many companies are realising that solar can provide much cheaper energy per kilowatt hour than the energy provided by the centralised grid.

The agreement currently covers all Atterbury projects in South Africa as well as selected projects in Africa and abroad.

SOLA Future Energy opens its Johannesburg Office

SOLA Opens its doors in Johannesburg

Since its foundation in Cape Town in 2013, SOLA Future Energy has now an officially established Johannesburg branch to service clients in the Gauteng region, as well as neighboring African countries. In Gauteng, SOLA Future Energy has already carried out several projects, including Growthpoint’s Key West Mall, Sasol’s Cradlestone Mall,  Goldfields Head Office, and three systems for Netcare Hospitals. In addition, the company has recently secured agreements with Atterbury Property Group and Ekurhuleni Municipality, which both promise several more MW capacity of projects in the pipeline.

“SOLA has designed, constructed and continues to maintain a diverse portfolio of projects – and having a base in Johannesburg will help to expand that. African businesses are realising that putting solar on their roofs makes good business sense,” said Jonathan Skeen, GM of SOLA Future Energy Johannesburg.

Since opening its doors in Cape Town in 2013, SOLA Future Energy has been responsible for the design, construction and monitoring of 25 large rooftop PV systems, resulting in over 11 MW of installed capacity across South Africa.  Included in this portfolio is Redefine’s Black River Park, one of the first buildings in Cape Town to successfully sell electricity back on to the municipal grid and Robben Island, a fully self-sufficient hybrid PV battery project.

At the launch of their Johannesburg office, SOLA focused on the latest trends in solar technology and its application in a business context. Just a few years ago, the adoption of solar was rare – and even unappealing – to business. “In the past few years, we’ve seen an exponential growth in the interest, and adoption, of solar systems as the business case becomes clearer. We now need business to believe in the value of distributed energy versus grid systems,” said Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy.

The Johannesburg office of SOLA Future Energy is based at Commerce Square, 39 Rivonia Road. If you would like to set up a meeting about a potential project in Johannesburg, please contact us.

Intersolar Europe SOLA Future

Takeaways from Intersolar 2017: the latest and greatest in solar technology

​SOLA CEO, Dom Wills, and CTO, Ian Burger, attended the world’s largest gathering of solar professionals in Munich last week. Below follows a few takeaways from the conference.

A positive outlook

Much of the Intersolar conference focused on the global outlook of the industry during 2016 and using that perspective to predict on the future of solar and its applications. Looking back is informative: in 2016, the world built 76 GW of solar power, which amounted to a conservative turnover of around US$ 85 billion. Much of the market was in China; the US, Japan and India were also very big players.

The pricing of solar is steadily shrinking; as more solar PV is deployed, investors’ confidence increases and increased volume and efficiency means that capex costs are coming down. Although this is a fantastic outlook for solar – and has been the reason for the sector’s exponential growth over the last few years – it is changing the way in which solar is deployed and potentially sold.

China, for example, curtails around 15-20% of its solar power: in other words, the spot price for solar energy is 0, 20% of the time.  The curtailment is factored into the financial model, but an obvious opportunity exists to harness and sell that energy as the penetration of solar increases.  This has huge potential for utility battery storage, because businesses – or even individuals – can buy power for nothing at time of excess, and then sell in high times of need.  Business opportunities also exist to sell ancillary services to the grid, such as frequency or voltage support.

This is great news for people and for industry as a whole – the future could easily see energy being extremely cheap, if not free. For businesses in energy, the business model will be built around power – storing the cheap energy produced by the sun, and selling it back to consumers when it is not shining. It’s likely that tariff structures might change to accommodate this, and that manufacturers and other energy-guzzlers are incentivised to ramp-up operations during the day, when the sun is shining and energy will be cheap.

Away from baseload

The outlook on heavy baseload and centralised grid energy infrastructure is not only becoming more unpopular, the general perception is that the forward costs of nuclear and coal could potentially put economies at risk. Because manufacturing competitiveness relies heavily on energy costs, countries with the lowest energy costs will thrive and those with expensive power will fail.  As such, careful consideration needs to be made as to which energy sources to prioritise. Centralised, baseload-heavy grids are no longer required, competitive or appealing in the global market.

On the positive side of this, microgrid tech is an exciting prospect for countries with little or fragmented access to energy. It’s predicted that microgrids are going to be cheaper than fossil fuels, and Africa is a perfect market for microgrids because of its lack of fixed-line infrastructure. The potential for many more to have access to power is within reach and will not be expensive to deploy.

Storage, storage, storage

Storage was, predictably, one of the major topics at the conference. The general sentiment amongst technical experts is that for every unit of solar PV that is installed from now on, some storage must be included – even if it has to be subsidised at first. The inclusion of storage will be important to avoid large-scale solar PV becoming a nuisance to the grid or having large amounts of curtailment. If storage is incorporated with every PV system, the scale will also assist in bringing down the cost of lithium ion technology – and thus the price of batteries.

Storage came up for other technologies, too. Electric vehicles will increase the demand for electricity in coming years, an flexible charging will be important with on-board storage, so that they can buy electricity when it is cheapest and during peak PV hours. However, there is still much to be done in the way of making cars and their systems smarter.

Hydrogen and Methane were also a topic of discussion on the storage front, as both gases can be created from electricity using chemical processes. Exploring this link opens up the opportunity for long term seasonal and annual storage options which will be particularly useful in countries with large imbalance between summer and winter.

Smart and automated

In line with global technology trends, the Internet of Things is popping up in the energy world, too. Experts believe that IoT It will play a role in allowing ‘smartification’ of devices to use energy efficiently or use energy at specific times, depending on the cost.  This links heavily with the substantial amount of ‘smart home tech’ that is being developed to automate and increase efficiency in households. Drones and robots, too, are a hot topic up for debate. From operations and cleaning to testing and surveillance, they are going to become a useful player in making solar PV more efficient.

SOLA will be hosting an information session on findings from Intersolar Europe on 29 June. If you would like to attend, please get in contact. 

Intersolar Europe

Reflections from Intersolar, day 1

SOLA CEO, Dom Wills and CTO, Ian Burger, are currently in Munich for Intersolar Europe – the world’s largest gathering of solar professionals. Below are some reflections from the first day of the conference. Follow updates on Twitter.

Sola

Intersolar Europe 1

2016 was a record year for solar energy

Reduced costs and better technology paints a sunny picture for solar

Overall, 2016 was a record year for solar. This is due to not only increased uptake, but also reduced cost of materials. Overall, the levelised cost of energy – or, what solar energy costs comparative to other sources such as coal and wind –  has come down by 58% in the past 7 years, and storage by 40% in the past 4 years. Both of these factors are predicted to either reduce at the same rate or even an increased rate. This paints a positive picture for the future of solar and its affordability.Technical advances in the actual making of solar panels – such as integrating Silver deposits in silicon wafers that solar panels are made of – is expected to increase the efficiency of solar cells by 0.24%, perhaps even increasing to 0.35% over the next year. These technical aspects, combined with reducing costs of storage, could mean that solar far outstrips its energy competitors in coming years.

Operations and Maintenance key to solar’s effectiveness

Operations and Maintenance of solar was also a key part of the discussion, with the costs of this still needing to be reduced significantly. As more plants are built, there is a need to maintain them; however, costs of maintenance are still relatively high. Soiling losses – or dirt on solar panels that reduces their generating capacity – can be as high as 20%, particularly in dry or dusty areas. This makes the importance of maintaining solar systems even more poignant. Automation, digitization and standardisation will be key components to achieving costs reductions for operation and maintenance.

The development of specific standards for solar, such as international standard DIN77055-1, are currently being compiled and will look to be published in early 2018. Standards such as these focus on record keeping and standardising procedures, which will likely be beneficial for developing the relevant software portals for PV plants in the future.

In conclusion

Overall, the first day of Intersolar Europe was one packed to the brim with positive stories of solar, and how both costs and technology are advancing in the technology’s favour. From the perspective of technical leaders in the field, the future really does look bright.

Follow SOLA CEO, Dom Wills, for updates.

Visit the Intersolar Europe Website.

Contact us to install your own solar system.

Intersolar Europe

The plenary hall was packed for day one of Intersolar Europe

SOLA Future Energy helps to green Century City Conference Centre

This week, SOLA Future Energy was pleased to assist the Century City Conference Centre in its journey toward sustainability by completing a solar energy system on the centre’s roof. The complete system consists of over 800 photovoltaic panels that will generate electricity directly from the sun for the conference centre.  The newly-built facility, owned by Rabie Property Group, currently uses over 2M kWh electricity annually.

SOLA Future Energy installed the 260 kW system over 6 weeks. Split over two roofs, the combined system will produce around 400 000 kWh of electricity annually, which is expected to cut the centre’s carbon emissions by 17% per annum.

Gary Koetser, joint CEO of CCCC, comments, “Sustainability is fast becoming a non-negotiable in the private sector, with corporates across the board making a concerted effort to reduce negative effects on the environment. From the outset, we have strived tominimalize the impact of our operationson the environment and have implemented a number of policies and procedures to this end. This includes water management, waste management & recycling, sustainable food and energy saving.

“Examples like CCCC show that small-scale, decentralised energy usage is an important, simple step that companies can take toward securing their own affordable energy supply in the future,” said Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy. Will’s voice joined others in a session discussing the cost-effectiveness of renewable technologies at African Utility Week.

Glyn Taylor, joint CEO of CCCC reiterates the centre’s position on sustainable practices, “We are really proud that our system not only makes financial sense, but further exemplifies our commitment to providing a sustainable conference venue by actively cutting down on our own carbon emissions.”

Projects such as this demonstrate a simple step that large buildings can take toward securing their own energy supply in the future whilst cutting their own carbon emissions.

SOLA Future Energy installs 550 kW solar system in Gardens

SOLA Future Energy recently completed a rooftop solar PV installation for Wembley Square,an office complex and lifestyle centre in Gardens, Cape Town. The centre, owned by Redefine Commercial property group is home to several offices, residential apartments, shops and restaurants, and currently uses around 7M kWh electricity per annum.

The rooftop solar system, designed and constructed by SOLA, was completed over 6 weeks, and is expected to supply 550 kW direct current (DC) to the building. The system is expected to produce over 850 000 kWh energy per annum for over 20 years, resulting in a 12% reduction of the building’s carbon footprint per annum. In addition, the solar system will save around R970 000 per annum in electricity costs.