Battery energy storage for business

For most businesses, hours without electricity are hours that revenue, resources, and opportunities are lost. candi solar, a Swiss-owned solar financing business specialising in PV and energy storage solutions, discusses the importance of businesses diversifying their energy sources and how battery storage has become an increasingly favourable, and in many cases, indispensable option.

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Taking charge of your business

For most businesses, hours without electricity are hours that revenue, resources and opportunities are lost. candi solar, a Swiss-owned solar financing business specialising in PV and energy storage solutions, discusses the importance of businesses diversifying their energy sources and how battery storage has become an increasingly favourable, and in many cases, indispensable option.

Last year South Africa saw over 1 900 hours of power outages, making it one of the most loadshedding intensive years the country has experienced. The response to keep the lights on and businesses operating has been solar PV installations, diesel generators and deep-cycle batteries such as a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS).

Gaining more interest as a backup power supply, a BESS is an advanced and efficient solution for an uninterrupted power supply. Over and above diesel generators, candi solar offers an array of BESS options, depending on the business’s energy demand. This offering is one that candi solar has been providing for a number of years in the South African market.

“While diesel generators are widely available and have a lower upfront capital outlay, battery storage is becoming an increasingly favourable backup power alternative that presents long-term diesel cost savings, is silent and requires very little maintenance,” says Guy Rice, South African managing director at candi. “With continued power outages, most businesses recognise the urgency to turn to alternative power sources,” says Rice.

Battery storage for basic business continuity

While many businesses have opted for standard UPSs or smaller lithium batteries to keep their computers and WiFi functioning during loadshedding, a large number of businesses and commercial sectors need bigger backup power systems to keep operations running profitably. A power outage for even a few seconds could compromise an entire production chain. According to Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde*, the agricultural sector in the Western Cape alone, risks losing 181 233 hectares of permanent crops due to loadshedding with an estimated replacement value of R60-billion.

“A BESS provides seamless backup power, which means that the transfer from the grid over to a BESS happens without any noticeable disruption to the power supply. This is in contrast to diesel generators, which can take up to a minute to change over to the backup power supply,” says Chris Brosz, global head of engineering at candi solar. “This seamless transition is important to protect equipment and to avoid compromising a product or a production process during an outage.”

BESS provides the option of critical load backup, which supports only the aspects of the business that are critical to production.

Battery storage to reduce your electricity bill 

Beyond loadshedding, energy arbitrage using a BESS can save businesses money on its peak tariff charges. This benefit involves purchasing more electricity during off-peak periods, storing it in a BESS, and discharging it during peak periods to avoid higher peak tariffs.

Choosing a suitable BESS for your business

Before a BESS is installed on-site, an energy assessment is conducted to determine your energy demand and the required battery size. A small-to-midsize BESS is installed indoors where the larger BESS (from 1000kVA) are typically containerised solutions.

“All of the batteries that candi utilises come with a 10-year performance warranty, which in some cases is extendable to 15 years. Batteries can also be repurposed for residential use once its commercial lifespan has been reached. The second-hand battery market is also growing in South Africa, as loadshedding continues,” highlights Daniel Willemse, product engineer at candi. “Further, as electric vehicles (EVs) become more commonplace, most experts expect widespread and economically viable options for battery recycling to come with it.”

It is also important to plan long term; will your business’s energy demand increase? If so, a BESS, with its modular and expandable design, becomes a feasible option that works effectively with solar. A hybrid solar-BESS system will store any surplus energy generated by solar, which allows you to utilise your solar PV installation for maximum benefit, reducing your reliance on the grid even further.   


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Choosing a battery really is as simple as either caring about our planet or not

Everyone is desperate, the president has announced a national state of disaster, we all want the lights on – but at what cost? That’s the question we should all be asking ourselves if we are to be honest and claim to care about our planet and our children’s future.

By Lance Dickerson, MD at REVOV

Take a moment and consider someone drowning in debt. It is an impossible, overwhelming feeling. Often, just to get some breathing space, the person will take a loan – perhaps from an unscrupulous credit provider or from a family member – just to make the immediate pain go away. However, as night follows day, that loan too eventually needs servicing. Was the few months of peace worth it?

We are in the same position in South Africa. We won’t beat around the bush: The national power grid is not under pressure, it is broken. Stage 8 loadshedding – which none of us want – is not unimaginable any more. Households are at their wit’s end – food goes off, they can’t plan anything and appliances are being abused by constant power cuts. Small businesses are being taken to the cleaners, with many just not able to survive. Jobs are under threat, criminals eye nice dark houses with no electric gate or alarm power when the inferior lead batteries give in. It is a disaster.

And so, what happens? Those of us with the means say “enough is enough”, and we do whatever we can to reduce the burden on our businesses and households. “I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on,” is the prevailing attitude, a bit like the over-indebted person taking another loan and enjoying the short-term respite from creditor phone calls daily.

Let’s start with generators, pound for pound still the most affordable purchase price. Until now, most of the conversation has been around how much it takes to run them because of high fuel prices, meaning over the long-term, they cost more. However, if, like me, you’ve been unfortunate enough to see the massive diesel generators start at a large shopping mall, you’d have been sick to your stomach seeing thick, black plumes of smoke belch into our atmosphere, already struggling to provide enough clean air for us all because of Eskom’s over-reliance on dirty coal.

Then there’s batteries. You can’t blame people for choosing the cheapest option on the market. However, you can ask a question of the suppliers and distributors: why are you stocking not only inferior chemistry, but batteries that bring with them a heavy carbon price?

What is the point of buying solar panels or investing in big UPS and inverter systems, only to back them up with lead acid or gel batteries? First-life lithium batteries are a better option, but the mining and beneficiation of the raw materials puts massive strain on the environment. And so we are stuck with the same dilemma.

The energy transition to renewables does not come for free – it is dependent on minerals that need to be mined and then transported around the world and turned into usable renewable energy components and batteries. The electric vehicle (EV) market is competing for lithium iron phosphate batteries – the superior battery chemistry. And so, when we consider the stationary, or back-up energy market’s rapid growth, there is more competition than ever before. However in both these cases, the batteries come at a heavy cost to the environment. It is a glaring contradiction: to go green you must first hurt the environment.

Some cities, such as Shenzhen in China, are well on their way to sustainable e-mobility. These thousands upon thousands of EVs need to change their batteries every few years because in electric cars, there comes a point where weight versus output demands a battery change. However, within these batteries are perfectly good cells. These perfectly good cells are taken out and reconfigured and put into new casings with new components to become 2nd LiFe batteries. Equal to, if not superior in robustness, to first life lithium batteries. Were these batteries’ cells not reconfigured they would end up in landfills and – you guessed it – that would poison the planet some more.

About a year ago, while on the phone to two of the most experienced and senior battery consultants on the planet, both based in the US, I was astounded to hear from them that what 2nd LiFe companies such as ours do, is still “something new” to them. They agreed, immediately, that the carbon cost of a 2nd LiFe battery has already been paid for in the beneficiation and EV life, and that bar a small assembly line, they represent about the most carbon-neutral solution there is to renewable energy storage.

There you have it, clear as day. If you care about the environment and you want to “go green”, then there really is no reason to buy generators or lead acid batteries. First life is an option, but 2nd LiFe is the more environmentally responsible choice. It’s that simple. Sometimes people call 2nd LiFe second hand. It’s rubbish, as 2nd LiFe batteries are unrecognisable in their new configuration, like a BMW 320 being stripped and turned into a boat. But even if they were second hand, they still are the only real green solution.

It’s time to think long and hard about our actions. Are we making short-term investments that will keep the lights on now but end up contributing to a terrible planet for our children and their children, or are we consciously seeking out the legitimately green solutions that do the same thing? The environment matters. So do our choices.

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Interactive Energy Storage Online Workshop is Back by Popular Demand

Infocus International Group has announced the new dates for Energy Storage online workshop which will commence live on 4th October and 12nd December 2022

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IBC SOLAR South Africa: Installers and Project of the Year Awards

IBC SOLAR South Africa (Pty) Ltd, subsidiary of IBC SOLAR AG, a global leader in photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage held their Year-End Functions this month, where they announced Premium Partners 2021 awards such as ‘Installer of the Year’ and ‘Project of the Year’, among others. It is the third consecutive year that IBC SOLAR South Africa has honoured its closest partners.

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Infocus International Launches Online Masterclass on Energy Storage

Infocus International Group is bringing back the best-rated Energy Storage online workshop which will be commencing live on 13 September 2021.

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South Africa’s energy storage opportunity

The year 2020 saw African economies and mining companies battling to stay on course due to a global pandemic.

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How optimised energy management delivers sustainability at the Fekola Gold Mine

By Luke Witmer, General Manager, Data Science, Wärtsilä Energy Storage and Optimization

Since B2Gold first acquired the Fekola gold mine, located in a remote corner of southwest Mali, exploration studies revealed the deposits to be almost double the initial estimates.

A recent site expansion has just been completed, and while the existing power units provide enough power to support the increase in production, the company sought to reduce its energy costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase power reliability. The addition of a 35MWp solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and 17MW/15MWh of energy storage to the existing 64MW thermal engine plant was decided.

This new energy mix is anticipated to save over 13-million litres of fuel, reduce carbon emissions by thirty-nine thousand tons per year, and generate a payback in just over four years.

Such an elaborate hybrid configuration needs a powerful brain to deliver on all its potential: Wärtsilä’s GEMS, an advanced energy management system, has been set up to control the energy across the fleet of power sources, thermal, renewable, and battery storage. The integration, control, and optimization capabilities provided by GEMS allow the thermal units to be run at the most efficient rate and enable the battery storage to handle the large load step changes and volatility of the solar PV generation assets.

Integrated Hybrid Energy Solution  

In the context of the Fekola mine, which is an off-grid electrical island, the battery is performing a lot of different services simultaneously, including frequency response, voltage support, shifting solar energy, and providing spinning reserves. The energy load is very flat, with a steady consumption rate around 40MW as the mining equipment is operating consistently, 24/7. However, if an engine trips offline and fails, the battery serves as an emergency backstop. The controls reserve enough battery energy capacity to fill the power gap for the time it takes to get another engine started, and the software inside each inverter enables the battery to respond instantaneously to any frequency deviation.

The reciprocating engines operate most efficiently at 85-90 percent of their capacity, this is their “sweet spot”. But if there is a sudden spike in demand, if a little more power is needed, or if mining equipment is coming online, then another engine needs to be run to meet the extra load. With the battery providing spinning reserves, the engines can be kept running at their sweet spot, reducing the overall cost per kilowatt hour. Moreover, with the solar plant providing power during the day, three to four engines can be shut down over this period, providing a quiet time to carry out preventive maintenance. This really helps the maintenance cycle, ensuring that the engines operate in a more efficient manner.

Solar PV volatility can be intense. On a bright day with puffy clouds passing by a solar farm of this size can easily see ramps of 25MW over a couple of minutes. This requires intelligent controls, dynamically checking the amount of solar that can be let into the grid without causing an issue for the engine loadings or without overloading the battery.  

Conducting the Orchestra

The GEMS intelligent software provides the optimization layer that controls all the power sources to ensure that they work together in harmony. The user interface (UI) gives access to all the data and presents it in a user-friendly way. Accessible remotely, all operations are simulated on a digital twin in the cloud to verify the system controls and simulate the most efficient operating scenarios to lower the cost of energy. This is an important software feature, both during and after commissioning as it allows operators to train on the platform ahead of time and familiarise themselves with the automated controls and dynamic curtailment of renewables. The UI provides the forecast for renewables and the battery charge status at any given moment, it can provide push email or phone notifications for alerts; telling operators when to turn off an engine and when to turn it back on.

The software is constantly analysing the data and running the math to solve the economic dispatch requirements and unit commitment constraints to ensure grid reliability and high engine efficiency. Load forecasting integrates the different trends and patterns that are detectable in historic data as well as satellite based solar forecasting to provide a holistic approach to dispatching power. The Fekola site has a sky imager, or cloud tracking camera with a fisheye lens, that provides solar forecasts for the next half hour in high temporal resolution.

To ensure that operators really understand the platform, and have visibility over the advanced controls, the UI provides probability distributions of the solar forecast. Tracking the forecast errors enables operators to see whether the solar is overproducing or underproducing what the forecast was expecting at the time and provides visibility to the operators on the key performance indicators. This feedback is an important part of the machine/human interface and provides operators with insight if an engine is required to be turned on at short notice.

Automated curtailment enables the optimization of the system providing a reactivity that people cannot match. By continually monitoring the engine loadings and battery, the system is ready to clamp down on solar if it gets too volatile or exceeds some spinning reserve requirement. For example, if a large, unexpected cloud arrives, the battery is dispatched to fill the gap while the engines ramp up. Once the cloud disappears, however, the engines remain committed to operating for a few hours, and the solar power is transferred to recharge the battery.

Over time, as load patterns shift, the load forecasting algorithm will also be dynamically updating to match the changing realities of the load. As mining equipment hits layers of harder rock, increasing the power load, the system will adjust and dispatch the engines accordingly.

Hybrid solutions will become the new gold standard for off-grid heavy energy users

The Fekola mine project incorporates the largest off-grid hybrid power solution in the world, demonstrating the growing case for clean energy and its sustainable and economic potential for mines in Africa and beyond.

As the cost of batteries and solar panels continues to become more competitive, hybrid solutions are proving to be a realistic and effective means for increasing energy reliability and lowering operating costs in any context, thus freeing up resources to improve the human condition; whether through cheaper materials and gainful employment, or by providing broader access to reliable electricity for healthcare, education, and improved quality of life. 

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Renewables, energy storage and the future of smart cities

Smart cities are a topic of constant conversation, and they’ve already come to fruition across the globe.

From Singapore to San Francisco, organisations, government officials and city planners have made incredible efforts to support the development of intelligent communities. According to a recent report by IHS Technology, there will be at least 88 smart cities all over the world by 2025, up from 21 in 2013. While the majority of these are likely to be located in Asia, Europe is expected to be home to more than thirty.

With smart cities and the general population on the rise, one of the major issues facing industry leaders today is how to power these interconnected cities effectively and efficiently. As a result, many global leaders have publicly asked for a suitable and sustainable answer – one that would support critical infrastructure yet not add to the global emissions challenge.

While joblessness and migration from rural poverty to anticipated urban wealth has led to rapid urbanisation in South Africa and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, putting pressure on limited resources, designing smart cities – or even including elements of smart cities in existing metropolises, may help communities leapfrog obstacles that would impede more complex locations.

The increasing need for such a solution, coupled with the dropping costs of renewable technologies, has made the transition to a fossil fuel-free environment more likely than ever before. In the last year alone, global renewable energy investment has increased to the point where it’s now surpassing investment in fossil fuels, according a recent UN report.

From wind to solar, nations all over the globe are taking advantage of this shift to create innovative and energy efficient solutions from natural power. In Saudi Arabia, a $200 billion solar power development has just been signed off, potentially tripling the country’s electricity generation capacity. Over in China – one of the most highly populated countries in the world – the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, also called Gansu Wind Farm Project, was recently approved by the government. The windfarm, which is currently installing capacity of more than 6,000 MW, is projected to grow to a total of 10,000 MW, solidifying China’s ambition to be a global leader in renewable energy.

South Africa is home to eight of the ten largest solar plants in Africa, including the 175MW Solar Capital De Aar Project, the 100MW KaXu Solar One project (South Africa’s first commercially operated thermal electric power plant), and the 100MW Ilanga-1 CSP Plant, among others.

What’s next

Though renewable energy is the way of the future, there are still some concerns about how this will all be feasible – especially as our cities continue to get bigger, smarter and more demanding. This uncertainty has led many industry leaders to start asking valid, but tough, questions. For example, as renewable energy from wind and solar is weather dependent, will we be able to be permanently independent of coal, oil, and natural gas? And with the shift to electric cars, will our energy system be able to handle the increased demand on the grid?

The answer? While clean energy technologies are evolving tenfold, much more flexibility will be necessary for these energy sources to provide the reliability we require. This includes investing in interconnected systems, having ample control over when and how we use energy, and most importantly – safe, reliable and efficient energy storage.

Today’s energy storage solutions provide business owners with the unique opportunity to not only invest in renewable energy projects, but to also benefit from their excess.

The surplus energy that is generated from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, is stored and used later when they are no longer generating energy – further eliminating emissions from imported electricity. This excess energy can also then be sold back to the grid, giving business the chance to improve on their own return on investment, while lowering overall energy costs.

Business benefit for energy storage

Investing in battery storage projects like Eaton’s microgrid also enables businesses to ensure reliable power continuity during grid outages – especially during peak times. This is particularly interesting for financial investors, as many see this as a way to play on the grid service markets. 

There is no doubt that smart cities are the future – and many would even argue they are our present. But given their environmental impact, and their ability to put vast amounts of pressure on the grid, the way that they’re currently set up is simply unsustainable.

The need for renewable energy sources has come to a head, and while many nations are taking the right steps forward, more needs to be done.

A strong, efficient, and sustainable future depends on the creation of smart technologies to provide flexibility – and energy storage is just the first step.

Because without sustainability, the smart cities we envision are likely to remain closer to fiction than reality.

By Seydou Kane, managing director for Eaton Africa

Eaton has been in Africa since 1927 with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Nigeria, with 200k ft².of manufacturing space located in South Africa and Morocco. For more information visit

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Energy Storage – High on the agenda for Emerging Economies

Energy storage is the capture of energy produced at one time for use at a later time to reduce imbalances between energy demand and energy production.

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