Is going off the Grid Feasible?

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Most households have experienced the inconvenience of load shedding or no water or both. This led to people preparing on some scale, particularly in response to load shedding. Whether it was torches, batteries and candles or installing gas appliances or hybrid appliances or installing generators; people reacted to minimise the inconvenience of being without power. Being without water, just meant looking into rainwater harvesting tanks, or boreholes or greywater systems. In the current water shortage, these are not bad ideas. In fact, it’s just common sense. Some households have adopted all of these in a bid to save money and be more environmentally conscious. But is it off-the-grid? The below definition is supplied:

The term off-the-grid (OTG) can refer to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services.

So how do these homes generate their power and get their water?

Electrical power: Electrical power can be generated on-site with renewable energy sources such as solar (particularly with photovoltaics), wind, micro hydro, geothermal; with a generator or Micro combined heat and power with adequate fuel reserves. Such a system is called a stand-alone power system.

Water: On-site water sources can include a well, stream, or lake. Depending on the water source, this may include pumps and/or filtration. Rainwater can also be harvested.

In reading up about off-the-grid homes, it became apparent that there is very much a cost consideration. Those that have gone full “off-the-grid” almost seem to treat it like a challenge.

How far can they remove themselves from the everyday use of public utilities? Obviously, there’s the cost of setting up which ever system you’ve chosen. Then it involves how long until you recoup your costs of the equipment and installation. If you make your money back, and then continue to function without having to fork out for power and water; then you’re golden. But I wondered about the expertise involved. I, myself, have very little knowledge about battery lifespans and generators and ensuring that I don’t blow something up; while connecting all the bits and bobs that are required to power my home. So is it a case of just hiring the correct professional to assess and set you up, while you learn to read battery levels and be aware where your hot water is currently coming from?

Is that it?

Just becoming conscious of what you require everyday for your home, and where it is coming from? Has the convenience of public infrastructure removed us from our individual impact on said infrastructure and the environment? Is that why we get so upset when Eskom turns off the lights? Because now we actually have to consider how dependent we are? But this isn’t true for all. This is very much centered on the urban and suburban communities. We have electricity and water. And we have options should these be temporarily turned off. Are all those shacks out in the stix considered off-the-grid? Where women walk kilometers to bring back water? The communities that use the car batteries that you see being pushed in wheel barrows? Where paraffin and Lion matches, are staples. Are these homes that are not connected to electricity or running water or sewer systems, considered environmentally conscientious and green? No. These homes and people that are doing without. Never mind no access to basic services, the fact that wood and coal are burnt for cooking and warmth doesn’t help the environment or people’s health. Lack of sanitation has a detrimental impact on public health. The Government has a responsibility to get everybody onto the grid, but at the same time is encouraging innovation and environmental thinking to allow people to get off-the-grid.

The National Infrastructure Plan was adopted in 2012 in a bid to get basic services to those communities that are without. It’s aim is to get electricity to the people, and water and sanitation. To improve lives. To ensure safety and healthy living conditions. How does this weigh up with the drive to be more green and environmentally conscious? More connections to the existing infrastructure, weaken it. (Eskom, I’m looking at you). We’ve seen it. The new RDP houses have been built and they all have solar panels and solar water heaters. A bid to meet all requirements halfway. But we’ve also read the articles where they haven’t been installed correctly and are woefully facing the wrong direction. North, the solar panels are apparently supposed to face north. So once again, it’s a balancing act.

Existing infrastructure has to be maintained, it then has to be increased to increase coverage and capacity. But this has a greater impact on resources and the environment; which is so not on in this day and age. So what do you do? Any damn thing you can. If you just want to not be paying huge electricity and water bills, then pay attention to how you are using these services. Because, lets be honest, money is a huge consideration and motivator. Whether you leave buckets out in the rain or install full on rainwater harvesting tanks; it all adds up. Solar panels, solar water heaters, restricting when your geyser is on and energy saver bulbs (which pretty much are your only option now) are all good habits and options to take on.

Off-the-grid definitely involves research and commitment and money. In some cases, it is very much a necessity and in others it does seem a bit of a luxury.

 

 

 

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Off-the-grid

http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Eskom/Living-off-the-grid-How-you-can-live-without-Eskom-20150621

http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/going-off-the-grid—cape-town-style-1925969

http://www.elliesrenewable.co.za/rural_offthegrid.php

https://lottostar.co.za/blog/living-off-the-grid-not-that-difficult/

http://www.gov.za/issues/national-infrastructure-plan

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/2d0f2f0049f65b6aa0c3eba53d9712f0/Rural-infrastructure-development:-the-solution-for-urbanization

About Claire Donaldson

I started working at Leads 2 Business in February 2005, and have served as Head of Department of Daily Tenders from 2007 until the present. I oversee both the Daily Tenders South Africa and Africa Departments.

Are there dark times ahead for Eskom?

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Are there dark times ahead for Eskom?

You are either nodding in agreement or shaking your head, depending on how you perceive the current situation.

 

Christmas

 

Eskom is a state owned (SOE) company which provides virtually all of South Africa’s electricity and the load shedding crisis was felt deeply by all South Africans. Business and home owners were affected by random blackouts and limited access to systems. At first, we laughed and joked about the ambience, the candles and the romantic dinners, but then after a few months people started to lose their sense of humour and it became quite annoying to say the least. Rosters were stuck up on fridges, meals prepared before the time, washing planned for certain days etc. We prepared as best we could. But why should we have to? We are paying for this right! So if we are paying for electricity, then why do we not have electricity?

 

Eskom

 

Recently I read that the South African government had already been warned back in 1998 that the country was running out of electricity!! Despite these warnings, they decided not to invest in any new power stations. If they had listened, South Africa could have had a new power station up and running by 2006 and load shedding could have been prevented. But in 2007 as predicted, South Africa ran out of electricity, 8 years later the crisis has deepened.

South Africa’s infrastructure including our power plants are operating well beyond their lifespan and due to an increase in demand often break down and force Eskom to perform unplanned maintenance. As a result they have relied on diesel generators to make up for the shortfall when power plants are in for maintenance – At a huge expense!
Eskom has set up its own maintenance plan to ensure long term plant health and seem to be progressing well as the maintenance has resulted in a reduction in the number of breakdowns over the past 7 months which in turn means we haven’t had load shedding.

In their plans they have prepared for the higher demand in the winter months and are building new power plants to help shore up power reserves. Eskom expect to spend billions / trillions over the next 5 years to build these power stations….spend whose billions exactly?
Quote – “To meet its targeted nuclear generation capacity, SA’s Government have said they plan to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at a cost estimated between R400 Billion and R1 Trillion.”

Just this week, I read an article that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) announced that electricity prices will be increasing by 9.4 percent from April. So that’s how they are paying for their mistake! In other bad news it was said that this increase could have terrible consequences for businesses such as closing down and retrenchment. Jobs are already in the firing line and the tariff increase could be used as the excuse to start retrenching. The Chamber of Mines has already warned that if Eskom’s application is approved, over 40 000 jobs could be lost. Apparently the 9.4 percent hike is just the first of many, as Eskom’s Khulu Phasiwe said prices will go up again. Already I can just see my news feed filling up with statuses such as #EskomFeesMustFall… But there may be a silver lining to the increase – the risk of load-shedding will be less, but at what cost?
The maintenance schedule is under Eskom’s own control and it only has itself to blame for the poor maintenance practices that we have had to suffer and pay for. Eskom has plans in place to ensure maintenance continues to stick to schedule and continues uninterrupted, well, so they say.
Being the optimist I am, I do have some good news as I prefer to see the good in everything, even Eskom. The good news is that as of April 2016, it has been approximately 207 days since the last load shedding, whoo hoo!! Plus Eskom has reassured us that this is the one count that will continue to rise, oh, and as it seems also the tariff hike…but anyway…Eskom say they “do not expect” load shedding in the future as the company has stabilised.

I have a dream…that one day we will have to explain in depth what the dreaded “Load Shedding” was when speaking to our grandchildren.In the same way that we would explain call boxes, polophonic ringtones, tape players and typewriters. But again, I say a dream.

 

Capture

 

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Many people still fear that SA is on the verge of disaster due to the most recent events such as firing of the finance minister, JZ’s admissions about Nkandla and the demonstrations at various university campuses where various items were burnt or destroyed. There are also concerns about a recession. But are they correct?
Keeping Eskom afloat is only part of the solution. Identifying where they went wrong and learning from their mistakes is another big part of the solution. Investigating viable alternatives is another part. One obvious lesson is that they should stop building large plants. Look at Medupi, it is already way more expensive than planned and even though its not operational yet, it is contributing to the rising cost of electricity and worsening our country’s problems. If they had decided to build a smaller plant, it may have been operational by now.

Mr James-Brent Styan, a journalist, has been writing about Eskom since 2008. He was there from the first load shedding and is still writing and tweeting about Eskom today. For those interested to read about Eskom’s journey, their ups and downs along with future predictions, look up the book “Blackout: The Eskom Crisis”.

 

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Maybe we could also look at having different suppliers besides just Eskom, have a choice in who we prefer to supply our electricity. In the UK they have “The Big Six Energy Suppliers” namely British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE. They have an option to decide who they think would be best suited to them. This might not be such a bad idea. There are also options such as going off the grid etc that one could look into.
The bottom line is, that if the Eskom ship sinks, we all sink. There is no doubt that Eskom must be fixed, but we mustn’t hold our breath that this will happen any time soon. Eskom does seem to have a plan of some sort and have had a wake up call and are taking drastic steps to ensure this does not happen again, but we have not been given a time frame and most of us don’t trust that Eskom will do as they say.

So I don’t have a clear answer as to whether we will or won’t have to deal with load shedding again, or if there will be a light at the end of this tunnel. All we can do is shed some light on the current situation, it’s then up to you to decide.

About Michelle Hosford

I work full time, study part time and now am the proud owner of the cutest puppy. Sleep...? What is that?

Hydroelectric Plants

Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy, accounting for 16 percent of global electricity generation – 3,427 terawatt hours of electricity production in 2010, and is expected to increase about 3.1% each year for the next 25 years. Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia – Pacific region generating 32 percent of global hydropower in 2010.
It is also a flexible source of electricity since the amount produced by the station can be changed up or down very quickly to adapt to changing energy demands. However, damming interrupts the flow of rivers and can harm local ecosystems, and building large dams and reservoirs often involves displacing people and wildlife. [tweetthis]Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste, and has a considerably lower output level of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuel powered energy plants.[/tweetthis]

 

Leads 2 Business : Hydroelectric

 

Generating methods

Conventional (dams)
Most hydroelectric power comes from the potential energy of dammed water driving a water turbine and generator. The power extracted from the water depends on the volume and on the difference in height between the source and the water’s outflow. This height difference is called the head. A large pipe (the “penstock”) delivers water from the reservoir to the turbine.

 

Pumped-storage
This method produces electricity to supply high peak demands by moving water between reservoirs at different elevations. At times of low electrical demand, the excess generation capacity is used to pump water into the higher reservoir. When the demand becomes greater, water is released back into the lower reservoir through a turbine. Pumped-storage schemes currently provide the most commercially important means of large-scale grid energy storage and improve the daily capacity factor of the generation system. Pumped storage is not an energy source, and appears as a negative number in listings.

 

Run-of-the-river
Run-of-the-river hydroelectric stations are those with small or no reservoir capacity, so that only the water coming from upstream is available for generation at that moment, and any oversupply must pass unused. A constant supply of water from a lake or existing reservoir upstream is a significant advantage in choosing sites for run-of-the-river. In the United States, run of the river hydropower could potentially provide 60,000 megawatts (80,000,000 hp) (about 13.7% of total use in 2011 if continuously available).

 

Tide
A tidal power station makes use of the daily rise and fall of ocean water due to tides; such sources are highly predictable, and if conditions permit construction of reservoirs, can also be dispatchable to generate power during high demand periods. Less common types of hydro schemes use water’s kinetic energy or undammed sources such as undershot waterwheels. Tidal power is viable in a relatively small number of locations around the world. [tweetthis]In Great Britain, there are eight sites that could be developed, which have the potential to generate 20% of the electricity used in 2012.[/tweetthis]

 

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Flexibility
Hydropower is a flexible source of electricity since stations can be ramped up and down very quickly to adapt to changing energy demands. Hydro turbines have a start-up time of the order of a few minutes. It takes around 60 to 90 seconds to bring a unit from cold start-up to full load; this is much shorter than for gas turbines or steam plants. Power generation can also be decreased quickly when there is a surplus power generation. Hence the limited capacity of hydropower units is not generally used to produce base power except for vacating the flood pool or meeting downstream needs. Instead, it serves as backup for non-hydro generators.

Low power costs
The major advantage of hydroelectricity is elimination of the cost of fuel. The cost of operating a hydroelectric station is nearly immune to increases in the cost of fossil fuels such as oils, natural gas or coal, and no imports are needed.
Hydroelectric stations have long economic lives, with some plants still in service after 50–100 years. Operating labor cost is also usually low, as plants are automated and have few personnel on site during normal operation.
Where a dam serves multiple purposes, a hydroelectric station may be added with relatively low construction cost, providing a useful revenue stream to offset the costs of dam operation. Additionally, some data shows that in most countries large hydropower dams will be too costly and take too long to build to deliver a positive risk adjusted return, unless appropriate risk management measures are put in place.

Suitability for industrial applications
While many hydroelectric projects supply public electricity networks, some are created to serve specific industrial enterprises. Dedicated hydroelectric projects are often built to provide the substantial amounts of electricity needed for aluminium electrolytic plants, for example.

Suitability for Agricultural applications

Dozens of hydroelectric projects – ranging from less than one kilowatt (1kW) to several dozen megawatts (MW) – are being actively pursued by individual farmers, hospitality operators and agricultural co-operatives in all nine provinces. Small hydroelectric projects tapping into existing Department of Water Affairs and other infrastructure are having a profound impact on the profitability and sustainability of individual farmers, farming communities and agri-businesses.

Reduced CO2 emissions
Since hydroelectric dams do not burn fossil fuels, they do not directly produce carbon dioxide. While some carbon dioxide is produced during manufacture and construction of the project, this is a tiny fraction of the operating emissions of equivalent fossil-fuel electricity generation. According to studies, hydroelectricity produces the least amount of greenhouse gases and externality of any energy source. Coming in second place was wind, third was nuclear energy, and fourth was solar photovoltaic. The low greenhouse gas impact of hydroelectricity is found especially in temperate climates. Greater greenhouse gas emission impacts are found in the tropical regions because the reservoirs of power stations in tropical regions produce a larger amount of methane than those in temperate areas.

Other uses of the reservoir
Reservoirs created by hydroelectric schemes often provide facilities for water sports, and become tourist attractions themselves. In some countries, aquaculture in reservoirs is common. Multi-use installed for irrigation support agriculture with a relatively constant water supply. Large hydro dams can control floods, which would otherwise affect people living downstream of the project.

 

Disadvantages

Ecosystem damage and loss of land
Hydroelectric power stations that use dams would submerge large areas of land due to the requirement of a reservoir.
Large reservoirs associated with traditional hydroelectric power stations result in submersion of extensive areas upstream of the dams, sometimes destroying biologically rich and productive lowland and riverine valley forests, marshland and grasslands. The loss of land is often exacerbated by habitat fragmentation of surrounding areas caused by the reservoir.
Hydroelectric projects can be disruptive to surrounding aquatic ecosystems both upstream and downstream of the plant site. Generation of hydroelectric power changes the downstream river environment. Water exiting a turbine usually contains very little suspended sediment, which can lead to scouring of river beds and loss of riverbanks. Since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, rapid or even daily fluctuations in river flow are observed.

Siltation and flow shortage
When water flows it has the ability to transport particles heavier than itself downstream. This has a negative effect on dams and subsequently their power stations, particularly those on rivers or within catchment areas with high siltation. Siltation can fill a reservoir and reduce its capacity to control floods along with causing additional horizontal pressure on the upstream portion of the dam. Eventually, some reservoirs can become full of sediment and useless or over-top during a flood and fail.
Changes in the amount of river flow will correlate with the amount of energy produced by a dam. Lower river flows will reduce the amount of live storage in a reservoir therefore reducing the amount of water that can be used for hydroelectricity. The result of diminished river flow can be power shortages in areas that depend heavily on hydroelectric power. The risk of flow shortage may increase as a result of climate change.

Methane emissions (from reservoirs)
Lower positive impacts are found in the tropical regions, as it has been noted that the reservoirs of power plants in tropical regions produce substantial amounts of methane. This is due to plant material in flooded areas decaying in an anaerobic environment, and forming methane, a greenhouse gas. According to the World Commission on Dams report, where the reservoir is large compared to the generating capacity (less than 100 watts per square metre of surface area) and no clearing of the forests in the area was undertaken prior to impoundment of the reservoir, greenhouse gas emissions from the reservoir may be higher than those of a conventional oil-fired thermal generation plant.

Relocation
Another disadvantage of hydroelectric dams is the need to relocate the people living where the reservoirs are planned. In 2000, the World Commission on Dams estimated that dams had physically displaced 40-80 million people worldwide.

Failure risks
Because large conventional dammed-hydro facilities hold back large volumes of water, a failure due to poor construction, natural disasters or sabotage can be catastrophic to downriver settlements and infrastructure. Dam failures have been some of the largest man-made disasters in history.
Smaller dams and micro hydro facilities create less risk, but can form continuing hazards even after being decommissioned.

Comparison with other methods of power generation
Hydroelectricity eliminates the flue gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, including pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, dust, and mercury in the coal. Hydroelectricity also avoids the hazards of coal mining and the indirect health effects of coal emissions. Compared to nuclear power, hydroelectricity generates no nuclear waste, has none of the dangers associated with uranium mining, nor nuclear leaks.
Compared to wind farms, hydroelectricity power stations have a more predictable load factor. If the project has a storage reservoir, it can generate power when needed. Hydroelectric stations can be easily regulated to follow variations in power demand.

Power Generation in South Africa
South Africa makes use of the following forms of power generation: Coal, Gas Turbine, Hydro, Nuclear, Wind, Solar Photovoltaic, Solar CSP (Concentraded Solar Power) and Landfill Gas. The highest capacity (MW) is Coal, with Hydro coming in at third.
South Africa produces around 240,300 gigawatt-hours (865,000 TJ) electricity annually. Most of this electricity is consumed domestically, but around 12,000 gigawatt-hour is annually exported to those countries participating in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

The following utilities are SAPP members: Mozambique (Electricidade de Mozambique, HCB, Motraco); Botswana (Botswana Power Co-operation); Malawi (Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi); Angola (Empresa National de Electricidade); South Africa (Eskom); Lesotho (Lesotho Electricity Corporation); Namibia (Nam Power); DRC (Societe National d’ Electricite); Swaziland (Swaziland Electricity Board); Tanzania (Tanzania Electric Supply Company); Zambia (Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation); and Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority).
South Africa supplements its electricity supply by importing around 9,000 gigawatt-hours per year from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric generation station in Mozambique via the 1,920 MW Cahora Bassa high-voltage direct current transmission system. As of September, the exports were expected to reach full capacity as maintenance had been on-going at the dam.
Most power stations in South Africa are owned and operated by Eskom and these plants account for 95% of all the electricity produced in South Africa and 45% of all electricity produced on the African continent.

Cahora Bassa (HVDC)
Cahora-Bassa (previously spelled Cabora Bassa) is the name for an HVDC (high voltage direct current) power transmission system between the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Generation Station at the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique, and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Cahora Bassa system is the largest hydroelectric scheme in southern Africa with the powerhouse containing five 415 megawatts (557,000 hp) turbines. Most of the power generated is exported to South Afica, which is done by the Cahora Bassa HVDC system, a set of high voltage direct current lines. The system includes two converter stations, one at Songo in Mozambique and the other at Apollo in South Africa. There are two parallel power lines between these two stations, covering 1,400 km, of which 900 km is in Mozambican territory. These HVDC lines work at 533 kV and in Mozambique territory only have about 4,200 towers.
Currently there’s a Request for Proposal out for the Botswana – South Africa (BOSA) Transmission Project (DTA 537608) requesting a Transaction Advisor.
 

Hydroelectric in South Africa:
Tubatse Pumped Storage Scheme – Limpopo
Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme – Kwazulu-Natal

Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme – Free State
Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme – Western Cape
Gariep Dam – Free State
Steenbras Power Station (Pumped Storage) – Western Cape
Vanderkloof Dam – Northern Cape
Collywobbles – Mbhashe – Eastern Cape
Ncora Dam – Eastern Cape
Sol Plaatje Power Station – Free State
Merino Power Station – Free State
Kakamas Hydro Electric – Northern Cape
Kruisvallei Hyfro – Free State
Major Hydroelectric Projects in Africa:
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – 6,000 MW Ethiopia 2011 – 2017 Located in the upper Nile Basin, drawing complaint from Egypt
Inga 3 Project in DRC: Building of massive hydroelectric dam in DRC set to begin in 2017

 

 

 

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_South_Africa
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahora_Bassa_(HVDC)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahora_Bassa_Dam
http://www.eskom.co.za/sites/idm/Documents/Usingwatertopoweragricultureenergyefficiency.pdf

Building of massive hydroelectric dam in DRC set to begin in 2017


http://www.energy.gov.za/files/esources/electricity/electricity_powerpool.html

About Claire Donaldson

I started working at Leads 2 Business in February 2005, and have served as Head of Department of Daily Tenders from 2007 until the present. I oversee both the Daily Tenders South Africa and Africa Departments.