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With Eskom’s stability looking far from certain, businesses are searching for cheaper and more reliable alternatives to generate electricity.
With Eskom’s stability looking far from certain, businesses are searching for cheaper and more reliable alternatives to generate electricity.

Mtuba Mall harnesses power of the sun


IOL - Aug 8th, 11:32

With Eskom’s stability looking far from certain, businesses are searching for cheaper and more reliable alternatives to generate electricity.

One that has gone the renewable energy route to generate its own electricity to supplement supply from the Eskom grid is northern KwaZulu-Natal shopping mall, Mtuba Mall.

The 17200m² regional shopping centre, 200km north of Durban, got SolarSaver, a company that allows clients to install customised solar photovoltaic (PV) solution via a rent-to-own model, to install solar panels last month.

The mall’s management said when it was designed and developed five years ago, it aimed to be naturally kinder to the environment and has large open-air sections to allow for abundant natural light and airflow, requiring less additional lighting and air conditioning.

Mtuba Mall general manager Dylan Niemann said: “We are always looking for new initiatives that help reduce our impact on the environment. In addition, the irregular power supply and load shedding threats over the last few years have forced us to search for alternative ways to generate our own electricity.”

Solar has been an exciting addition to the mall, added Niemann. “A few years ago, the cost of solar was prohibitive, as we would need to outlay significant capital on set-up costs."

“SolarSaver’s rent-to-own offering has changed the game considerably as they cover the full cost of the installation and all the costs associated with the ongoing maintenance."

"For a monthly rental fee, we can anticipate significant future savings on our current electricity costs, without the hassle of buying and maintaining a system ourselves.”

SolarSaver director Stuart Batchelor said that the mall installation includes 3440 solar panels and 20 inverters.

“The mall’s objective was to generate as much electricity as possible for its own consumption. The project came with some unique challenges but we were able to come up with some innovative solutions."

“The end result for Mtuba Mall is an anticipated solar output of 1528200kWh per year.”

The findings of a research study undertaken by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre (ERC), which was released this year, found that the country’s future energy supply should come primarily from wind and solar photovolataics,

It showed that renewable energy plus flexible generation or storage provides the least-cost pathway for the electricity sector.

The ERC study was an alternative technical assessment of South Africa’s future electricity system to inform debate on the draft Integrated Resource Plan, which was presented by the Department of Energy to the National Economic Development and Labour Council this year.

The study found that there was no single or quick-fix solution to South Africa’s electricity woes, but rather that a vibrant energy-mix should be adopted, which would not only save money for consumers, industry and the economy broadly but also help to meet the country’s carbon emission targets.

Such a mix would include methods to store excess power on-grid through utility-scale storage, and off-grid, for example, by generating hydrogen, ammonia, and methane, and charging electric vehicles.


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