Electrical Power & Protection


Sun-powered microgrid study launched in Pretoria

June 2023 Electrical Power & Protection

Wits University, together with its partners in the Gauteng Research Triangle, has started a pilot project to study the potential of introducing small portable solar power systems into informal housing communities, to provide electricity.

The project, which makes use of the Pecogrid power brick developed by Professor Willie Cronje of the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering, aims to look at the viability of installing small microgrids into informal communities to assist in providing energy to these communities, while it may, at the same time, act as an income generator for individuals.

The project was launched after Professor David Everatt, professor of Urban Governance at the Wits School of Governance, and Professor Imraan Valodia, pro-vice chancellor: Climate, Sustainability and Inequality, wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Maverick, arguing that informal settlements could drive South Africa’s solar revolution.

“As these households are not connected to the grid at the moment, local government will not lose any revenue, should these communities – who are in desperate need for energy – be connected to solar power,” said Everatt. “So, if they are connected with solar energy, and have excess energy that they can sell to local government for cash, they will not only have energy, but will earn a much-needed income, which is a win-win for everybody involved. The local community will be energised, the grid will be less strained as these communities feed energy into the grid, and over time, the government will spend less on social grants as households will get an income.”

As part of the pilot study, technicians from Lightec installed two Pecogrid solar systems at houses in Pretoria West. The systems both consisted of a portable Peco-brick – a 200 Watt inverter unit connected to a 500 watt-hour lithium-ion battery, which is in turn connected to a 160 Watt solar panel. One of the systems was connected to the Eskom grid, while the other was a completely off-grid system.


“The whole system is based on plug-and-play technology, where you can buy the equipment at a vendor, go home, connect the wires to the solar panel and you’re done,” said Cronje, who spent the last ten years developing the system. “We put a lot of effort in making the technology as simple as possible, so you don’t need a professional electrician to install it.”

A typical single-brick power system can power the lights in an informal dwelling, while also providing enough power to charge a cell phone. Additional batteries or power-bricks could be added to increase capacity to power a television and even a fridge. “The system is modular, so you can add on further capacity as your economic circumstances change,” said Mario Roos, CEO of Lightec. “Even if you’re moving into a formal housing structure, you can unclip the panel from the roof, take your portable unit with you and connect it to your new house.”

Everatt said the pilot study will run for six months to a year, to see whether the system can be used safely and sustainably, and whether it would add to the quality of life and economical livelihoods of the communities. “The proof of concept is to see whether it generates excess power once the household used what they needed. The excess power will then be used by the whole community to charge their cell phones.”

For more information contact Professor Cronje, Wits University, +27 84 628 5086, [email protected], www.wits.ac.za




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Power supply with scalability optimised
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Schneider Electric has introduced the Easy UPS 3-Phase Modular to the South African marketplace. This robust uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is designed to protect critical loads while offering third-party verified Live Swap functionality.

Read more...
Prioritising arc flash safety
Comtest Electrical Power & Protection
Comtest has developed a range of thermal imaging and wireless testing tools from Fluke, designed to ensure safety is the top priority for engineers working in potentially dangerous arc flash zones.

Read more...
Powering South Africa’s future the smart way
ACTOM Electrical Machines Electrical Power & Protection
The adoption of IIoT and AI technologies is driving a profound transformation in South Africa’s electromechanical equipment sector. This transformation is giving rise to smart grids and the optimisation of energy generation, distribution and consumption. Key to this digital transformation is the demand for intelligent equipment capable of remote monitoring and control, ushering in unprecedented efficiency and resilience.

Read more...
Battery energy storage system for microgrids
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Schneider Electric has launched its latest battery energy storage system (BESS), designed and engineered to be a part of a flexible and scalable architecture.

Read more...
A paper trail of successful energy optimisation
Electrical Power & Protection
Over 3,8 million tons of paper products are produced in South Africa each year, and thermal energy plays a pivotal role in both the preparation of raw materials and the pressing and drying of the fibre layers that are ultimately processed into these products. The R50 billion local pulp and paper industry faces exciting opportunities, but also some obstacles, as it seeks to boost competitiveness and contain costs.

Read more...
Harnessing the potential of green hydrogen
Electrical Power & Protection
A new Danfoss Impact paper reveals that with hydrogen production set to account for more than half of today’s electricity demand by 2050, energy efficiency in its production is paramount.

Read more...
The cleanest energy is that which we’re not wasting or not using
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
As South Africa continues to face a shortage of energy production, there is one persistent element of the energy mix to be considered: energy waste.

Read more...
Innovative transformer design for data centre
Electrical Power & Protection
The upgrade of a data centre in Nigeria has called for a custom-engineered dry-type transformer solution that can deal with, among other challenges, a high level of voltage fluctuations.

Read more...
Schneider Electric launches e-mobility solution in Africa
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Schneider Electric has launched its electric vehicle charging solution in Africa, as several countries on the continent are eyeing a transition away from fossil fuel-powered cars.

Read more...
Sustainable energy optimisation for rubber manufacturers
Electrical Power & Protection
South Africa’s rubber is a major material used in both the mining and automotive sectors. Now, with increasing pressure to address energy usage and optimisation, the intervention of Associated Energy Services, a leading operations and maintenance service provider to the steam and boiler sector, could be a game changer.

Read more...