Nonzwakazi Cekete
Journalist
3 minute read
25 Mar 2021
1:58 pm

What does it take to get off the Eskom grid?

Nonzwakazi Cekete

You may be sick and tired of load shedding and thinking of getting off Eskom's grid but what will energy independence cost you?

Getting off the Eskom grid may be a long term solution to load shedding and hefty electricity bills. Picture: iStock

Load shedding has really put a spanner in the works. You may be working from home or running a business that requires a constant supply of electricity and then unexpectedly load shedding strikes.

Recently we were slapped with the reality that at the rate things are going, load shedding may be with us for another five years or so.

Teresa Settas, marketing director of One Energy Group, says many people are looking for back-up power solutions to see them through the unpredictable and productivity-killing Eskom load shedding.

“They are fed up with the rocketing costs of electricity and mooted penalties for making alternative arrangements to get the power that Eskom cannot reliably or affordably supply,” she said.

Besides load shedding and the likelihood it will be with us for a long time still, the ongoing price hikes is another bone of contention for most consumers.

Now more than ever could be the right time to move off the grid and try alternative supplies of electricity.

“Eskom’s ongoing energy supply woes are also unlikely to be resolved in the near term, so South Africans either need to learn to live with load shedding, or take steps to reduce their reliance on the utility grid,” Settas said.

She says you can invest in an energy back-up solution but with a long-term view to getting you closer to greater grid independence. This is a step-by-step process, she advises.

Settas says spending R30,000 on an unsuitable back-up solution today detracts from your ultimate objective of grid independence and self sufficiency.

As a start, she suggests  you go for an effective and affordable scalable, solar photovoltaic system (PV) hybrid solution that takes care of your immediate needs. This allows you to scale up in future to self-generation by adding solar panels.

“Initially go for a system that is configured as a back-up uninterruptible power supply (UPS) solution to provide backup  during outages. Then as your budget allows, expand it with solar panels to generate your own power, providing back up and saving you a fortune in electricity costs,” Settas said.

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What is important is that although you may be out to save money you shoould be prepared to pay for a qualified renewable energy partner with a solid, long-standing track record in the industry  and that will be around to support your system for many years to come.

Settas says as a start you can invest in a 4.6kW Goodwe inverter with a 3.5kWh Pylontech li-ion battery which costs around R71,000 including professional installation and all the required electrical protection. She warns that buying a cheap inverter is a waste of money because it will cost more over time.

Explaining how it works, she says that it is initially configured as a UPS. However it has a charge controller which means it can take solar panels at a later stage to operate as a hybrid solar system.

“It also provides clean power and perfectly suited for sensitive electronic equipment like computers, routers, fridges, TVs and so on,” she says.

Adding 4kW of solar panels will cost around R47,000 fully installed with the necessary electrical protection.

To add an additional 3.5kWh li-ion battery if needed at a later stage you have to budget around R21,000.

“If you want to radically reduce your monthly electricity costs at the same time and take your grid independence to the next level, take your water heating off the grid with a solar geyser.

“An electric geyser accounts for 30-40% of your monthly electricity usage in your home, so this is the most crucial starting point to reducing your daily electricity load. This means you can also buy a smaller and more affordable PV solution. A 200 litre solar geyser fully installed is around R27,000.”

By adding solar panels later, your system will generate its own electricity and charge your batteries using the sun’s energy,  not the grid.

Here you have it, you need at least R100,000 or so to get started and build up step-by-step towards independence from Eskom. 

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