Is going off the Grid Feasible?

71-Blog-LI-Is-going-off-of-the-grid-feasible

 

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

Please follow and like us:

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?

68-Blog-Header-Are-there-dark-times-ahead-for-Eskom

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

 

Capture3

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”.

 

Capture2

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.

Please follow and like us:

About Michelle Hosford

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

Why be Revolutionary? (The Sequel)

 

 

In my previous post, ‘Why be Revolutionary?’ I talked about the rise in popularity of alternative energy sources in South Africa. This is growing in impetus all over the world as resources become more scarce. The billions of people on the planet are realising that the onset of global warming was not just a conspiracy theory after all and that something needs to be done, quickly, to start remedying our current and ever growing impact.

The term Revolutionary has always seemed to me to be a word that implies movement? Why? It is a major and sudden impact on society or human endeavour according to Wikipedia. If you look at some of the famous revolutionaries in history (whether you agree or disagree with their principles and actions), none of them achieved the status of being a Revolutionary by doing nothing.

To name a few:

Spartacus : A slave leader who led a revolt against the Roman empire and in doing so became symbolic of revolutionary leaders fighting oppression.

William Wallace : (Who could forget Mel Gibson with war paint on?) Scottish rebel who led an uprising against the English during the Scottish wars of independence.

Joan of Arc : A revolutionary who inspired the French Dauphin to renew the fight again English Forces.

Mahatma Ghandi : Ghandi inspired non violent protests against the British.

 

But why am I going on about revolutionaries? Well, regardless if action was carried out peacefully or with force, the point is that there was action, movement, sudden impact. I had the opportunity to briefly discuss the ‘power play’ in Africa with one of our Project Researchers, Marlaine Andersen. She had some interesting points to make about her research in relation to the power (or lack thereof in some cases) in Africa:

“In terms of history – The African and SADC countries, like South Africa, have not made any provision for the expansion of their cities and town, the population growth and influx into the towns from the outlying areas, neither have they maintained the existing power grid infrastructure and as a result most countries in Africa have a huge power deficit, with load-shedding being a regular occurrence in many countries and many poor people having no access to power whatsoever. In recent years, many of the African and SADC countries have started making plan, raising funds etc. in a bid to generate more power through different sources, like hydro power, wind power, transmission lines, power stations, etc.”

Some of the more recent projects are:

Gas and Oil :

  • Construction of a 350MW gas-and oil-fired combined-cycle power plant in the municipality of Kpone, within the Tema industrial zone, in Ghana. Tema, Ghana’s major residential and industrial city, has the largest sea port in the country. It is about 24km from the international airport in the capital, Accra. Estimated project value : $900-million
  • Construction of a 50MW gas power plant in Rwanda in Central Africa.
  • NamPower (Pty) Ltd, the national electricity utility of Namibia, is developing the Kudu 800MW CCGT Power Station near Oranjemund in south-western Namibia. The combined cycle power station project will use natural gas from the Kudu Gas Field which is located 170km off-shore. Estimated Project Value: N$13.8 billion.
  • Namibian electricity utility, Nampower’s plans to build a new 300MW power station and waste oil recycling plant the heavy industrial zone of Arandis in Erongo, Namibia. The source of the coal to fire the power station has not yet been decided. Nampower would seek to identify all potential environmental, social and health impacts associated with the project, so as to manage these in accordance with international standards.

 

Electricity Highway :

  • Construction of an electricity highway between Ethiopia and Kenya, approximately 1068km of high-voltage, direct current 500kV transmission line and associated alternating current/direct current converter stations from Wolayta-Sodo, in Ethiopia to Suswa in Kenya, with a power transfer capacity of up to 2000MW. The total estimated project cost is $1.26 billion.

 

Hydro :

  • The 2067MW Lauca hydro-power station is being developed on the Kwanza river between the Cambambe and Capanda project in Angola. The project includes the development of a 132m high roller-compacted concrete dam, with a crest length of 1075m. The plant will comprise two units with six Francis turbines, each with an output of 340MW, and generators as well as additional equipment. The power station will supply power to about 750 000 people.
  • The project involves the construction of the 40MW Kabompo Gorge hydropower station to be located between the Solwezi and Mwinlunga districts at Kabompo Gorge on the Kabompo river in the north western region of Zambia. The development of the plant on the Kabompo river will help reduce the constant power outages occurring in the region. The power station will have an installed capacity of 1 600 MW and includes a 181-m-high roller-compacted concrete cavity arch dam, a radial-gated crest-type spillway and two underground power stations on the north and south banks of the river, each with four 200 MW vertical-shaft Francis turbine generators. The project is designed as a run-of-river scheme, with an estimated average energy generation of 8 700 GWh/y. Estimated project value : $120 million.

 

Coal :      

  • The construction of a 150MW to 300MW coal-fired power station(with potential to upgrade to 800MW) in the Erongo region of Namibia, known as the Erongo Coal-fired Power Station. The proposed project has a total estimated price tag of between R4-billion and R7-billion.

 

Action is always better than stagnation. Does Africa like South Africa has power issues? Of course! We, as a continent, are developing at a rate faster than anticipated (or planned – regardless of whose fault it may be). Life doesn’t tend to play by a set of guidelines. This continent is most certainly revolutionary. Sometimes the actions taken are not the ones we would specifically choose and sometimes to the detriment of her people, but the point is, there is also action being taken that is in a direction to build and improve. Take a look at these projects and see for yourself.

 

I suppose my question is really, “what am I doing to be part of this revolutionary continent?”

I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King Junior “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. What is your next move?

Please follow and like us:

About Carmen Barends

Social Media adventurer exploring new frontiers and learning how to survive. Tongue in cheek and mischief are the order of any good day topped with a sprinkling of laughter.