Border Kei Business Chamber goes green with renewable energy project

SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

At the height of load shedding in 2014 / 2015, the Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) was challenged by members and business alike, to propose methods and strategies to mitigate losses that arose from the load shedding – without buying generators.

"This challenge was readily taken up by the chamber’s Energy Forum, who with a diverse array of knowledge and experience began working on the problem. The Energy Forum decided that the best way to show businesses how to mitigate against load shedding and reduce energy demand, would be to do a project itself and lead by example," said Drayton Brown, Head: Communications at Border-Kei Chamber of Business. 

"This led to a decision to 'green' the Chamber and provide an example for members and businesses alike to do the same.  The successful implementation of this project has catapulted the BKCOB into a new league as it has now become the first chamber of commerce in South Africa to implement a project of this nature."

Brown said that through business partners and companies, the BKCOB started by simply assessing their demand and efficiencies. As such, a thorough energy audit was completed through the grant support programme of the National Business Initiative (NBi) and the consulting firm Carifro.

"This report indicated that energy demand could be lowered by simply adopting new technology and energy saving devices such as LED lighting, passive motion / occupancy sensors and the inclusion of a grid-tied solar photo voltaic (PV) system to supplement daytime demand.

"Responding to a tender process sent out by the Energy Forum, renewable energy manufacturers and suppliers responded with zeal, wherein almost all materials and products were supplied at cost in exchange for future advertising and marketing that they would receive relating to this project," he described.

"Cost of the installation is anticipated to be fully recovered in 36 months of continuous use. A similar system at retail prices would have a repayment structure of over 60 months, based on electricity demand."

THE SYSTEM

All installation was done by Ellies Renewable Energy who was responsible for the overall design and implementation of the system. It comprises a 5kw Grid-tied solar PV array of the latest technology CIGS thin-film solar panels manufactured by Black Lite Solar.

"Two, 6 Kilowatt Ellies UPS backup systems linked to FNB’s new gel-type battery banks ensure continuous power. Pia Solar, based in Port Elizabeth conceptualised and manufactured the mounting clamps for the PV array, which were not previously available in South Africa. In collaboration with the Master Artisan Academy of South Africa, students were used to install the LED lighting and passive occupancy sensors, providing them with work experience in an active office environment," Brown described.

"Support by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) Electrical Department is acknowledged and appreciated – especially in processing the application and approval to operate such a system within their municipal boundaries.

"The Energy Forum has documented the entire process from the auditing, to system design and specification, installation and operationalisation. This will serve as a blue print for chamber members to access the best quality advice on what works and what doesn’t work, without having to make costly mistakes.

"The first commercial project is now under discussion and it is hoped that this spurs other companies to take advantage of renewable energy options to reduce overhead costs, reduce their environmental footprint, be carbon conscious and lead Buffalo City into a new greener future."