While the initial cost of a commercial solar installation can be quite considerable, the losses that result from downtime during periods of load shedding can also be crippling without some form of backup power to rely on. While running a diesel generator during such times is certainly a viable means to ensure continued productivity, the associated fuel costs do represent an additional operating expense. Furthermore, even though diesel engines now run far more cleanly than in the past, they remain a source of pollution at a time when greenhouse gasses are a major concern.
The potential energy contained in the sunlight that strikes the earth during a single hour is more than enough to satisfy the current global demand for energy for an entire year. Furthermore, energy derived from sunlight with the use of photovoltaic panels produces no pollutants. For commercial use, solar power can be a highly cost-effective option, given that the initial installation cost will be offset by the fact that the operating costs of the system are largely negligible.
Whereas in many countries the effectiveness of these installations will often depend on the weather, in South Africa, we are blessed with an abundant supply of sunshine. In practice, this means that photovoltaic panels will often generate more power than can be used during a typical power outage. Furthermore, it also means that a commercial solar installation has the potential to meet most if not all of a company’s electrical power requirements. To do so will require the use of storage batteries and, while installing them will definitely lead to additional expense, the resulting savings on monthly electricity bills can quickly offset the increased investment.
One of the main obstacles facing those companies that wish to make the transition to photovoltaic energy is often the lack of adequate space. In most cases, the number of panels required for a residential installation tends to be relatively limited and these can normally be fitted on an average-sized roof. However, since the power requirements of the average commercial user are generally much higher, more solar panels and, as a consequence, correspondingly more space in which to install them will usually be necessary.
Where the roof space may be insufficient, it is often possible to install the panels at ground level, perhaps in some available green space. In such cases, all that is important is to ensure that their chosen position remains exposed to sunlight throughout the day and that the panels will not be subject to shading by any nearby structures. While the technology is not yet available in South Africa, the development of photovoltaic glass now promises an alternative option for both domestic and commercial solar installations.
Being transparent, photovoltaic glass can, for example, be used to manufacture windows that are then able to generate electrical power. Alternatively, where the need is for much greater quantities of power, whole rooves, facades, and even entire buildings can be clad with this fascinating new material to provide the required generation capacity.
Whilst on the subject of generators, one should not overlook the important role now being played by the rapidly growing new breed of commercial solar power stations. While the combined local output from such plants is still relatively limited when one compares it with that of other countries, such as China, the United States, Japan, and India, South Africa already has more than 30 functional plants with more than a dozen additional projects either under construction or planned.
One wholly South African company and a local industry leader that has spearheaded and which remains at the forefront of the drive to promote the use of clean, inexpensive, and virtually inexhaustible solar energy for commercial, domestic, and even industrial purposes is PacB Group.
Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.