Load-shedding has led to significant productivity and revenue losses for many businesses. This ongoing power crisis has also led to record-breaking imports of solar panels, with R8,4-billion worth of panels being imported in the second quarter of 2023 alone.
By Ashley Bruyns, head of engineering at Altron Systems Integration
Furthermore, South African households and businesses are estimated to have installed twice as much solar capacity as Eskom – in only one year.
As more and more South Africans are fortunate enough to afford alternative energy and are installing solar into their homes, so too are businesses recognising that the long-term benefits outweigh the initial installation costs.
The transformative shift to solar energy within the corporate space is driven by a need for a reliable and consistent power source, as well as a cost-saving measure, especially given ever-increasing electricity tariffs in the country. An additional benefit, of course, is that demonstrating a commitment to the use of sustainable energy through solar power can also enhance a company’s public image.
Both within a residential home or business, an important step after installing solar is to make sure that you are optimising its use.
Tracking how much power you are using can help you determine when to run certain appliances, with those drawing more power being more suited to use during peak daytime hours. Households that optimise usage can reduce the amount of power they are utilising from the grid dramatically, which not only ensures battery capacity for times of load shedding but can also make a severe dent in your electricity bill every month.
The same rationale applies to businesses that have invested in solar power. By leveraging data-driven insights, they can make informed decisions, monitor performance, decide when to run certain machinery and limit how much power is being drawn from the grid.
Businesses making the decision to invest in solar energy also need to make sure that installation is the right spec and suitable to their needs. Much like when deciding on the size of servers or cloud resources needed, companies need to have a clear understanding of their electricity needs before investing in solar installation.
Analysing historical energy consumption patterns can assist businesses to understand when and how much energy is typically consumed, and the correct type or size of solar system to install.
Partnering with the right specialist provider and leveraging world-class technology to innovate when it comes to solar utilisation has a myriad of benefits. Real time data analytics allows businesses to monitor the performance of their solar energy systems, as well as detect any faults to minimise downtime. Data can optimise the use of batteries and charging and discharging cycles.
This can be done remotely given the right platform, ensuring that stored energy is used efficiently during periods of low solar generation, or high electricity demand. Such strategies equip businesses for longer stages of loadshedding while enhancing overall operational resilience and sustainability.
As with any business, assessing the financial returns on any investment is key. Data analytics plays a critical role in tracking energy savings, and return on investment, as well as payback periods, assisting in making informed decisions about any future investments in renewable energy. This empowers businesses to optimise solar energy, identify opportunities for improvement and maximise their investment, while not having to deal with an unreliable power supply.
With the price of solar decreasing more than 90% from 2008 to 2023, moving to solar is certainly becoming a viable and resilient option for businesses in South Africa. The next step is to adopt a more in-depth, data-based approach to optimising their solar usage, a step which will save even more in the long run.