Delegates briefed on energy storage technologies and developments in SA

October 25th, 2017, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

Dylan Tudor-Jones, the country manager for Gransolar Group in South Africa, opened the Large Scale Solar Power Event at Nedbank in Sandton recently by reminding the audience of an old joke regarding the invention of a solar-powered torch. Today, however, solar-powered torches are a reality and are the often one of the easiest ways to explain the concept of “dispatchable solar power” to people who don’t understand the concept. In other words, dispatchable solar power can be described as power generation systems which deliver power anytime of the day or night.

Dylan Tudor-Jones

Delegates were informed of the current market status and trends, comparative energy storage technologies, applications for energy storage, regulations, economics, financing and well as a commercial case study which highlighted the primary levers that influence the tariff of an IPP funding structure.

Speakers included Bertie Strydom from the Industrial Development Corporation, Christian Blom from PVH Energy Storage, Peter Langley from Eskom’s Research & Innovation Centre, Paul Vermeulen from City Power, Duncan Abel from Nedbank and Dorian Wrigley from Gransolar Umbono.

South Africa is at a tipping point where distributed solar power generation including energy storage is now financially viable under certain conditions. Large scale solar PV has reached grid parity in South Africa and 80% of global markets. The event marks the beginning of a new era for distributed solar power generation in South Africa as we anticipate a change in direction from a shrinking utility scale PV market to a growing commercial and industrial rooftop market which is sure to include dispatchable solar power in the near future.

Bertie Strydom, from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), discussed the summary of an enormous in-depth report on energy storage which had been compiled by Parsons of the US in collaboration with GIBB and Stellenbosch University for the US Trade and Development Agency. A modern electricity distribution system will be expected to carry power both to and from consumers, Strydom said, as consumers start to generate electricity for their own use. Surplus electricity generation will have to be fed into the network for use by other consumers, stored in energy storage devices or lost. Where feed-in tariffs are attractive, this surplus will be fed back into the network. However, storage is becoming increasingly attractive as battery prices fall, since storage offers security of supply as well as cheap electricity when time-of-use tariffs increase the cost of electricity at times of peak demand. Strydom said that a number of storage systems already exist and that choosing a technology is often related to the application or where the energy is to be stored.

Speaking on behalf of PVH, Christian Blom compared what he called “firm solar” with baseload and peaking solar vs. off-grid solar PV. He showed how stored energy can be used to flatten out the peaks in demand by supplementing supply during high demand and increasing load during off-peak periods to recharge the battery.

Eskom’s Peter Langley gave an overview of the power utility’s work in the area of energy storage. He said that the organisation has a fully equipped testing facility at the utility’s research and innovation centre in Rosherville, Germsiton, where a number of life-cycle tests are undertaken on numerous battery technologies to ascertain the best or most suitable technology for utility-scale energy storage in South Africa.

Paul Vermeulen explained how City Power – the city of Johannesburg’s power utility – is planning to use energy storage technology to assist in the provision of reliable and sufficient electricity supply to communities which are currently supplied with weak or insufficient power. A combination of solar PV and battery storage, at utility scale, will help the city to meet the challenges of providing electricity to previously unserved communities without having to invest in major new reticulation.

Duncan Abel, who is responsible for embedded generation at Nedbank, said that there are a number of ways in which solar PV can be funded and how banks can assist when planning a new PV installation.

Dorian Wrigley, a director at Gransolar Umbono, the company which organised the event, compared the differences between owning a PV plant and buying power through a power purchase agreement from an independent power producer. There are benefits and disadvantages in both options, Wrigley said, and companies wanting to invest in own-generation need to consider the options carefully.

The event was well attended by almost one hundred delegates including municipal representatives, PV project developers, property companies, electrical engineers, financial institutions, insurers and large commercial and industrial electricity consumers.


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