PacB Group // It’s Time More South Africans Go off the Grid


It’s Time More South Africans Go off the Grid

This is a phrase that can have several interpretations depending on just who may be going off the grid. For a criminal attempting to escape justice, it might mean acquiring a new identity and moving overseas. For a recluse, it could be a cabin in the woods while, to a modern teenager, it could mean closing Facebook and Twitter accounts. To the nation’s homeowners and businesses, however, the phrase has more far-reaching implications. To them, it means abandoning or, at least, limiting their dependence on mains electricity and the fossil fuels required to generate most of it.

In the face of mounting evidence of adverse climate changes, the transition to more sustainable power sources is not just an option – it is a necessity that has seen households, businesses, and industries in South Africa adopt the option of going off the grid.

There are essentially two ways in which this can be achieved, although one of these is not a practical option for general use. For a large operation, such as an office park or an industrial plant, a wind-powered generator might be a practical option, but it is also one that requires a substantial investment. While a wind farm does offer the means to generate power on a commercial scale to feed into the national network, the more practical option for most consumers is undoubtedly solar power.

Just one or two panels can be enough to charge a storage battery in order to supply backup power during load shedding and will not necessitate going off the grid completely. Connect a few additional panels and the upgraded installation could provide sufficient energy to meet most of a household’s requirements during the hours of daylight as well.

The implications are obvious. Solar power combines the prospect of a virtually infinite source of sustainable energy with the chance to substantially reduce the monthly bills from local municipalities. In some regions, it is even possible for large-scale users to be paid for feeding any power that exceeds their needs back into the national grid. In time, it is expected that households going off the grid, like those in many overseas countries, will also be entitled to qualify for a similar form of incentive by Eskom.

First observed by a French Physicist named Alexander Becquerel in 1839, the photovoltaic effect is responsible for the conversion of light into electricity. When photons from sunlight strike the surface of a thin layer of an electron-rich semi-conductor, electrons are displaced and travel along a wire to a layer of electron-deficient semi-conductor beneath, creating a flow of electrical current in the opposite direction. An individual solar cell generates about 0,5 volts. So, to enable going off the grid, multiple cells must be wired in series to form a panel, of which a number must be linked to form an array to increase the output further.

Already, solar arrays with a total surface area measured in hectares are serving as commercial power plants with outputs in the megawatt range. In parallel, the cost of panels has been dropping steadily and this, in turn, has seen the move to solar energy becoming an increasingly cost-effective option for households and small businesses.

While the output from panels can be utilised directly, only storage batteries will maximise the benefits of going off the grid. Installation, however, is strictly a job for a qualified expert and requires an inverter to convert the DC output from the solar array to AC for use. Switching facilities and connection to the household mains supply complete the setup process and, after commissioning and testing, your silent, sustainable, and eco-friendly generator is ready for action.

If you are planning on going off the grid, PacB Group has the quality products and all of the experience and expertise required to help you and the planet.


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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