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Backup Power

The Need for Backup Power Seems Unlikely to End Soon


If we were to wind the clock back by 12 years to 2007, this was a time when load shedding would have been a phrase that was unfamiliar to most South Africans. In November of that same year, however, we were all to learn, to our dismay, the precise meaning of those words and the effects their practical application would have on the lives of those of us who, for so long, had taken for granted that whenever we pressed the switch, our lights would come on. Outside of the nation’s industries, few of South Africa’s consumers had any real need for a source of a backup electricity source prior to that first fateful round of rolling blackouts.

Assertions by the parastatal service provider and an apology from the former president Thabo Mbeki, for underestimating its budgetary requirements allayed their fears for a while. However, their relief was short-lived, as the programme of planned outages resumed and has steadily intensified right up until the present day. Now, not only has it become necessary for most factories and industries to become more dependent than ever before upon their ability to generate electricity on-site, but even the nation’s households and small business owners have joined in the race to purchase some source of backup source.

Efforts by both Eskom and the government to placate the nation’s consumer have failed to inspire the hoped-for confidence in a speedy resumption of normal services, but instead, appear to have had the result of spurring their efforts to find alternative ways to produce electricity over which they have more control. Industries have continued to place their faith in the well-established diesel generators that have served them for years, adding to their existing installation to cope with emergencies, while many of South Africa’s homeowners with proportionately less to spend have tended to go for the smaller and markedly cheaper petroleum-driven units for their backup power. Generators, however, are not the only solution. Depending upon the precise needs and the financial resources of the consumer, there are two other options that could help him or her survive the next round of load shedding.

While they could work out a fair bit more expensive than the average generator, solar panels could not only meet all of your electricity requirements during a blackout, but are also a far more eco-friendly and sustainable option. One thing South Africa is not short on is sunshine, and those gazillions of free photons that bombard the nation for ten to twelve hours a day can be used to free electrons from a semiconductor, creating electricity at no cost to the consumer.

To provide backup electricity when needed, the current produced is used to charge storage batteries. The stored current can later be passed through an inverter to convert it to A/C power, a process that can be triggered automatically when the mains supply fails. Solar energy can be a great choice for homes and, on a larger scale, for apartment and office blocks.

Sometimes, it is not necessary to maintain all electrical function, but only those that are considered critical. For banks and other financial institutions, the main purpose of a backup power system is to ensure that computer servers and network activities are not interrupted, causing data loss or corruption. For such purposes, neither a generator nor a solar installation is necessary. Instead, an uninterruptible power supply or UPS should be quite sufficient. These devices draw their power from the mains while it is operational, and also incorporate a battery and inverter to provide an alternative A/C source when needed.

These units are not intended as a long-term backup power solution, but mainly to allow IT personnel a sufficient window of opportunity during which to power their systems down safely. It is worth noting that there are inexpensive UPS models suitable for home use.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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