Amidst the climate of SA’s devastating energy crisis, and perpetual electricity outages, one South African community now shines as a beacon of hope, progress, and innovation.
In a move set to revolutionise the way residential estates handle South Africa’s energy crisis, IMPOWER has launched a flagship PV solar and Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) facility, utilising innovative single axis tracking technology, at Coral Beach Residential Estate.
Conveniently situated just 10 minutes from the heart of East London, the idyllic residential haven offers a secure, comfortable, and ecologically conscious lifestyle.
But there was one problem: the estate’s power supply depended on a busy commercial line, which was often vandalised by copper thieves. This resulted in frequent, extended power outages, in addition to the regular load shedding schedule. A typical 2 – 5 hour backup power system simply wouldn’t be sufficient.
IMPOWER is a forerunner in SA’s rapidly expanding solar sector, but even so, this project pushed the group to its limits, explains CEO Jay Naidoo.
“The new state-of-the-art microgrid facility is the first of its kind in SA. Many have attempted it before and fallen short, and many more are now in the works. It was a huge challenge to get the project up and running, but together with our partners JA Solar, SolarMD and Schletter Mounting Systems, we had the experience, and the know-how, to successfully implement this technically complex project,” he explains.
Gabriel Kroes, IMPOWER’s head of engineering, weighs in: “We needed to build something future-proof. The newly launched system boasts a solar capacity of 388 kW and a Li-ion battery energy storage system with a capacity of 1.5MWh.”
“But what sets the Coral Beach facility apart is the unique single axis tracker system,” he says. “It allows the solar panels to follow the sun’s daily arc. That’s how we optimised the energy yield within the limited space we had to work with. This translates into an elegant, efficient system, offering consistent, reliable power for the residents.”
Harnessing the bright summer sun, the plant withstands the peak morning load, and is running at full tilt (no longer discharging batteries) by around 8, or 9 AM. As the community usage drops off around noon, and the sunlight reaches its mid-day peak, the BESS system is fully charged, and powering the community.
“At a time when so many are living in the dark due to loadshedding, we’re proud to be blazing a new trail with a solar-powered estate that’s able to provide our residents with reliable, sustainable energy. Thanks to IMPOWERS’s battery energy storage solution, we can ensure our Coral Beach Estate community remains unaffected by loadshedding while also giving back to the environment. We’re committed to doing our part to create a brighter future for our community and our country,” enthuses Coral Beach Estate owner Charles Pittaway.
“Thus, the facility provides the estate with eight hours of backup, as well as the cost savings that accrue from tapping a cheaper, cleaner energy source,”
One of the major obstacles to renewable energy adoption has been the prohibitive upfront costs. IMPOWER mitigated this through a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model, allowing the Homeowners Association to pay for the power on a pay-as-you-use basis, and eliminating the need for any upfront capex investment on their part.
Naidoo explains that the project is an “elegantly engineered solution, wrapped in a bespoke commercial model, that allows for a ‘win-win-win’ scenario.”
In this model, IMPOWER and its partners are direct investors, with a real stake in the project’s success. “The model was welcomed by the residents, who didn’t have to pay a cent for the installation or set up. We’re selling energy to the home-owners’ association, via a long-term PPA. We currently match Eskom’s energy cost, but unlike conventional power, our energy costs won’t rise significantly over the years. This means that the residents of Coral Beach will enjoy increasing savings on their home energy costs for every year of the 20-year PPA,” he explains.
The Coral Beach Estate launch is the latest in a series of wins for IMPOWER who have proven their mettle over an impressive portfolio of success stories. Previous landmark installations include commercial-scale facilities at the Capitec Head Office in Stellenbosch, 24 Central Commercial Park in Sandton, and at the K90 Shopping Centre in Boksburg.
IMPOWER Pty Ltd. was founded in 2014, specialising in engineering, procurement and project management contractor (EPCM) within the Solar and Energy Storage industry.