Electricity generation

Finding a balance between supply and green responsibilities

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South Africa’s Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) is “under way and under development,” says Dr Steve Lennon, managing director of Eskom’s resources and strategy division, as renewable energy resources have become the latest fad.

“This (plan) will focus on the overall energy sector and its contribution towards South Africa’s green economy while taking into consideration this sector’s role in ensuring that all the objectives outlined by the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2010/2011-2012/2012 and its upcoming iteration are met,” says Lennon.

“For the electricity sector, one should note that this is the first IRP that government directed to find a balance between competing government objectives, which include affordability, reducing carbon emissions, water conservation, localisation, and regional development.” 

The IRP (Integrated Resource Plan) is South Africa’s “living plan”, which is updated on an on-going basis to reflect the changing needs of South Africa and to learn from the inevitable changes in the economy and social and technological environment.  

“The IRP is also very important in terms of both access and meeting the country’s climate change imperatives as outlined in South Africa’s National Climate Change Response White Paper: 2011,” says Lennon.

South Africa’s first IPAP was launched in the 2007/08 financial year. Sidwell Medupe, spokesperson at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), says this programme has proved to be a robust formula which allows the department to continually scale up its interventions but also sufficient flexibility to respond to change. 

“Implementation of successive versions of IPAP has resulted in significant achievements and on-going scaling up of our interventions to retain, grow and diversify South Africa’s industrial base,” says Medupe.

Medupe says in the green industries in particular, the manufacturing of component inputs into their 17.8GW, renewable energy generation programme is a major opportunity. 

According to Medupe, solar water heating manufacturing opportunities arising from requirements for higher energy efficiency in the economy will also be vigorously pursued.

This brings us to the question of how South Africans can get the best use of their energy without putting pressure on costs.

With modern day concern that global warming is for real, there is an increasing demand by business and householders for information on the renewable energy options that are available. 

Renewable energy can be described as a form of sustainable energy that is a product of the earth’s natural environment. 

Any source of energy that can provide an on-going flow and be replaced by nature falls into the category of renewable energy. 

Eskom, South Africa’s electricity utility, is big on this. It says solar power can be utilised through a number of channels.

It says solar panels can be used to supply electricity for pumping, charging batteries for lights and any other low wattage use. 

This can be installed on the roof and used to heat water for the house and the swimming pool.

Wind energy can be used to charge batteries that can supply power to low wattage equipment in the homes.

Wherever there is water flowing constantly from a high point, that water flow can be used to generate electricity.

But Eskom says dual fuel systems are more efficient. These systems are generally used for heating air or water.

They are also frequently used in drying and intensive animal housing operations.
The principle of dual fuel is based on using heating elements during off-peak hours and alternative fuel during peak hours.

Alternative fuel options include coal, gas, diesel, oil, paraffin, wood, stalks or any other medium that is readily available in the area.

“The bottom line for energy efficiency is that we can all shoulder some responsibility and do what we can to save Power,” Eskom says in a report that was released recently. 

“As a farmer, your impact and role are significant. Your business will benefit from more cost-effective and energy-efficient operation so you can save money, while you help our country.”

Rising energy costs hit farmers especially hard and add to a farm’s input costs. Controlling these costs means that farmers need to become more aware of energy and learn how to use it more effectively without compromising their farm’s productivity.

According to Eskom, modern farming is a business and the modern farmer must be a businessman.  It says the modern farmers are just as concerned with controlling their operational costs as they are about their fields, crops and livestock.

By making small changes to the way they use power on their farms, they can ensure that they get the best value for their “energy rand” and also play a part in reducing the demand for power around the country. 

This is especially important during peak energy consumption periods (7 to 10 in the morning and 6 to 9 in the evening) when the probability of load shedding is more likely.

What can farmers do to save energy?

Electric motors 

These consume vast amounts of power. The older the motors are, the higher the chance that they use more electricity than they should due to being repaired several times.

Farmers can reduce their bills significantly by replacing old motors with new generation “high efficiency” electric motors. 

They should ensure that the size motors run at three-quarters (75%) of their capacity to perform everyday jobs. 

Eskom says irrigation is a cost-intensive process and streamlining streamlining irrigation systems means that farmers should make every effort to match their pipe and the sprayer nozzle sizes.

“Remember that pipes with small diameters operate at higher friction levels, which means that more electricity is being used to overcome that friction and deliver the same amount of water,” it says.

“Check your sprayer nozzles for wear and tear on a regular basis and you’ll reduce your water losses through any leaking pipes. Leaking pipes mean that the pumps work harder to deliver water and this increases the amount of electricity that they use.”

The utility urges farmers to carry out regular maintenance on their irrigation system and they’ll benefit from reduced power costs and save on their water bill.

Using up-to-date cellular and computer technology can also result in major savings. It’s been documented that computer scheduled irrigation can save up to 30% of the energy that farmers would generally use.

Pumping water to storage dams situated above the areas earmarked for irrigation means that farmers can use gravity to power their irrigation, even when power is not available. 

Pumping upstream can be done at night, to minimise the system load. Cold rooms use a lot of electricity and farmers can save electricity by keeping these doors properly sealed, opening doors when they need to.

This cuts down on cold air leaking out and being wasted. Overfilling a cold room lowers the cooling efficiency. 

The air inside the room won’t flow as easily between and under the produce, this means that it will take longer to cool farmers’ produce down and that more electricity will be used to reach the correct storage temperature.

Anthony Parker, a renewable energy consultant, says: “Benefits of renewable energy are real. Many people considering a renewable energy installation may wonder whether to choose solar or wind energy. In the case of businesses, urban locations have a number of problems for wind energy.” 

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