Load shedding solutions: Is going off-grid a good idea?

Private Property South Africa
Belinda Mountain

We all know that feeling. We’re making dinner or watching our favourite TV show and suddenly we’re plunged into pitch darkness as load shedding hits. With Eskom’s problems not going away anytime soon, many South Africans are making alternative energy arrangements, from buying generators to installing solar geysers. But none of these load shedding solutions come cheap.

It can cost from R60,000 for eight back-up batteries to R250,000 to take your entire residential property off the grid. So before taking the plunge, you need to be sure this is the right investment for you.

Morten Hald, executive director: Uval Engineering, advises people not to go completely off-grid because it rarely makes financial sense. Instead, he says,

“it’s about finding an energy sweet spot between the cost of your alternative supply and your consumption pattern”.

For example, a large solar system will overproduce in summer and waste energy. “Instead,” Morten advises, “install a system that caters for 40–70% of your electricity load, which means you’ll be almost off-grid in summer, and during winter you can supplement this with normal electricity.”

Balla Masemola, MD: Affordable Solar Electricity, agrees.

“Grid-interactive systems are more affordable than completely off-grid systems and are scalable,”

he says.

Morten says that you shouldn’t spend a cent on alternative energy sources until you have improved your existing energy efficiency. “Install LED lighting, get a gas geyser and buy inverter ACs or gas heaters for spatial heating. Once you’ve reduced your energy baseline, only then should you invest in something like solar heating.”

Solar makes absolute sense for everyone with a mid-term investment horizon, says Morten, such as a commercial building in Bryanston where he recently installed a 135kWp solar system. “The system will pay for itself in three years, generate net savings of R7m in 10 years and add value to the building itself,” he says.

For more information: Utility Value Engineering (Uval) 011 262 3207 uval.co.za Affordable Solar Electricity 011 462 1875 affordablesolar.co.za

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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