ZPE – 03 June 2018
This pilot off-grid sustainability engineering project was executed at a rural community centre site based in Kwathema on the outskirts of Brakpan in South Africa. The centre consists of a community hall, Mosque prayer facility, class rooms, ablution facilities, children’s play area, soccer court, kitchen, vegetable garden and care taker living quarters. The centre has a municipal water supply, but has no existing grid electricity supply.
The project was executed in an innovative PPP collaboration between a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) sponsor, a university student organisation, the local community and Zero Point Energy (ZPE) who fulfilled the role as industry Engineering, Construction, and Procurement (EPC) partner and offered discounted engineering rates. Project was executed and completed under budget, ahead of time and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Only equipment with industry-leading warrantees and guarantees were chosen to ensure a minimum design life of 25 years for the PV system and 10 years on the battery storage system. Key in the deisgn process was to ensure ease of operations and maitenance for the local community. A full requirements analysis, techno-economic evaluation, and consultative process with all stakeholders were factored into realising the eventual project scope below.
Phase 1 Project Scope:
- A full energy audit was conducted upfront and a practical load list drawn up in consultation with all stakeholders at the facility
A 3.2kWp solar PV system was installed. Consisted of 12x Tier 1 PV modules installed on a 25 degree tilted aluminium roof mounting structure to maximise solar energy absorption, and installed in a manner to minimize loading bearing pressure on the fragile roof.
- The above system was sized to generate +-15 kWhr (units) of electricity every day. This is enough electricity to power all internal lighting, external flood lighting, refrigeration, microphone system, device charging, TV screens, projectors, and cleaning equipment with an additional 15% spare capacity reserved for future plans at the centre which include an internet hotspot facility, library, medical container amongst others. A full energy audit was conducted upfront and a practical load list drawn up in consultation with all stakeholders at the facility
- A battery storage system was installed to capture excess solar generated electricity and store it for use at night. Consisted of 8x 12V 240Ahr batteries specifically designed for solar PV applications, and factored in a conservative depth of discharge to prolong battery life. Design considered modularity and ease of storage expansion in future should it be required. Vented and lockable battery cabinets were considered to ensure safety
- A solar charge controller, battery inverter and all other AC & DC electrical control, monitoring, protection and earthing equipment was sized and specified to ensure integration and seamless automation of the entire off-grid system with no day to day on-site user interaction required. On-site visual monitoring was made possible through the integrated controller that visually displays battery level, PV solar contribution and total load consumption in real-time with the provision of visual and audible alarms
- The system was designed to easily accommodate a future municipal grid connection should it become available thus allowing the system to function as a fully integrated micro-grid
- New electrical micro off–grid infrastructure was installed including light fixtures, exclusive LED lighting, light switches, socket outlets, all internal & external wiring, earthing and a new distribution board (DB). Emphasis was placed on using energy efficient devices to ensure optimal usage of the limited daily electricity resource
- A 150L solar geyser was also installed on the roof-top to imrpove pressure to newly installed ablution faucets and showers. The designed was done in a way to allow phase 2 integration of an LPG-based gas geyser to serve as hot water back-up at this off-grid site
- The building’s plumbing was upgraded to interconnect the solar geyser and improve pressure to new ablution faucets and shower mixers that were installed. Water efficiency was ensured by selecting faucets with efficient flow rates and aerator compatibility. A new water meter was installed to provide municipal supply isolation and to monitor consumption patterns on site
- Testing, commissioning, safety, healthy and environment (SH&E) considerations, quality assurance & control (QA/QC), issuance of Certificates of Compliance, Pr.Eng approved designs, as-built drawing packs and training to site personnel
All design, engineering, installation, commissioning, and construction management scope was executed by Zero Point Energy on a turn-key EPC basis. University of Witwatersrand’s Engineers without Borders (EWB-Wits) Chapter facilitated the project as Project Manager, Client Liaison and Community Engagement managers. They also provided engineering support through a student engineer who was involved and mentored throughout the project life cycle by ZPE’s engineering and installation teams.
Phase 2 of the project will follow shortly and the scope is to assess and factor in the following sustainability engineering solutions:
- Gas water heating integration
- Rain water harvesting
- Municipal water back-up and automated monitoring
- Water pressure optimisation
- Organic waste management and waste efficiency improvements
Benefit to the community has been successfully achieved through availability of electricity around the clock to conduct learning, training and prayers. They now have access to amenities that are often taken for granted in urban communities. This was made apparent on the day the system was fully commissioned, where site facility manager exclaimed his excitement at now being able to stay after dusk to pray and have meetings with community members. EWB-Wits student’s skills and knowledge have been increased through project and industry exposure along the entire project life cycle, and this project will serve as approved vacation work. SANZAF has demonstrated that they are an action-oriented NPO with their vision to electrify other rural and remote communities now a step closer, given the success of this pilot project. Zero Point Energy feels privileged to have been a part of this successful PPP project, and is proud of its team who has provided sustainability engineering expertise, mentoring and training to the benefit of all stakeholders.
- The client was South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) who is a well-established and reputable regional NPO known for their focus is on sustainable upliftment through development and relief efforts amongst empoverished communities. sanzaf.org.za
- Engineers without Borders (EWB) – Wits Chapter. EWB-SA has grown into a national movement with chapters in universities all over the country. Close to 100 projects have been conceived since the first student chapter was established at UCT in 2008, and the organisation continues to live up to its mandate of “empowering engineers to empower communities”. https://www.ewbsa.org/
- Zero Point Energy is a proudly South African Level 1 BBBEE Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) company that provides professionally engineered & managed solutions in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, off-grid and energy storage solutions, water efficiency and responsible waste management. The company is affiliated with the Green building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and has a passion to transform the energy industry without compromising on safety, quality and client satisfaction. zpenergy.co.za
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