Leading companies set one of the most important trends of our time

Going off-the-grid is a trend that is highly relevant with the times we are living in; considering all the carbon emissions and concerning climate change stats there are out there. As South Africans; the first thought which I guarantee comes to mind is to escape the reliance on our crumbling Eskom; but looking further, more than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies have already received significant results by using solar power. The list includes well-known enterprises such as Walmart, Target, Apple, IKEA and Intel, but many smaller businesses and even non-profits are embracing solar as well. Yes, these self-sufficient power systems have completely replaced old and polluting technologies such as nuclear, coal, gas, oil or lignite and are the way of the future.

These companies have not only ‘greened-up’ their brands; but are also giving back. Leading environmental brands such as search engine Ecosia are not only producing enough solar energy to power all searches with renewables; they are 200% renewable. This means that every search within the Ecosia platform is crowding out dirty energy from the electricity grid.  

Locally, it seems we have even more to worry about than just the environment. Driven further by the frustration of the state of Eskom, frequent cable-theft, and the inconvenience of load-shedding; local brands such as Anglo Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater, Makro and the City of Joburg have taken it upon themselves to pursue their own energy independence. 

The President has spoken

President Cyril

As South Africans; we have all borne the brunt of load shedding and the massive inconvenience it brings not only to our personal family life, but also to the workplace. President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his recent address to the nation, recently acknowledged the toll the country’s energy crisis is taking on our economy. He also made the bold announcement that the government will be working to lessen the country’s dependence on Eskom and will be welcoming independently generated solar energy as a solution to the way forward.

According to Deepak John for Business Day (October 2020); Ramaphosa framed his intention in order to embrace renewables as part of a bigger plan to grow the economy and attract investment.

Making the business case for solar power

Regardless of one’s industry, replacing your monthly electricity bill with a solar power system that generates electricity for you with zero variable cost is a sensible investment that can pay dividends in the long-run. With consumers becoming selectively eco-aware and leading brands lowering their carbon footprints, switching to solar energy is something that every business owner should be considering in 2021. 

Bearing sustainability in mind; a key driver for most businesses is however to reduce their utility bills. Data suggests that businesses can reduce overall energy costs by as much as 75%, thereby  making a significant difference to one’s bottom line. A great example is the solar installation at Makro Carnival on the East Rand; created to generate 60-80% of the store’s energy needs during the day.

Once paid-off; free electric supply is established for 25 to 35 years; the lifetime of the solar system (with long-term warranties in place). This is the stuff dreams are made of; and with South Africa’s vibrant and competitive solar energy industry; the answer to a greener, more thriving business is literally staring us in our tanned faces. 

‘Prosuming:’ giving back to the grid

Prosumer | Solar Power | South Africa

Not only can one make significant savings by going green with solar power, but one can actually make money, too. This is through net metering, which involves selling any unused electricity back to the grid, usually in the form of a power bill credit.

Yes- many self-generation operations are able to feed electricity back into the grid; serving as a backup resource at times of high demand. Allow us to introduce to you one of the latest buzzwords: ‘prosuming.’ Signaling a growing shift in how we power our homes and communities, ‘prosumers’ both produce and consume energy. With the rise of electric vehicles and their potential to store and feed power back to the grid, it is a term that is likely to grow even further, and as previously outlined, the big whale companies are already onboard.  

Microsoft’s Wyoming-based data centre serves as a prime example. Locally partnering with renewable source Black Hills Energy;  the business has the ability to draw from the datacentre’s normally dormant backup generators in times of need.

On a smaller scale, Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire, UK, generates its own onsite wind, solar and biomass power, making it the most ‘environmentally friendly zoo in Europe.’ Excess power not used on site is then sold back to the grid through Opus Energy, generating extra revenue for the zoo and contributing to overall grid supply.

The power of creating localized microgrids

According to microgridknowledge.com; a microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint, such as a college campus, hospital complex, business center, or neighborhood. 

In Zimbabwe; a contract offered by a US energy supplier has erected a hybrid solar-wind generator that will take several businesses that have clubbed together off the fragile national grid. By tapping into this microgrid, the businesses will purchase electricity from the supplier, relieving the up-front cost of having to acquire wind turbines and solar panels themselves, all the while ensuring the essential continuity of supply at an affordable price. 

Predicted as a new, and very necessary wave set to sweep over Africa; decentralizing energy through microgrids such as this have the potential to create business opportunities in poor or remote parts of the continent by selling excess energy to surrounding businesses or residences. 

In essence; the notion that energy must come from one central source is not only unproductive, but also outdated. We couldn’t agree more with Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa who states; ‘On a continent like Africa, with the incredible opportunity for solar and wind generated energy, keeping energy centralised severely hampers the potential for economic growth.’

No time to waste: how Swift’s innovative technology can automatically identify the best places to start

At Swift Geospatial; we realized that there is a need for strategically identifying structure suitability for harvesting solar potential. We therefore devised a tool for better decision-making purposes. Enter our unique MWh solar potential dashboard, accessed through an easy-to-use online portal. This platform enables us to effectively identify and pinpoint the best existing structures in a given urban landscape that fulfill the requirements of solar harvesting. 

Users are empowered to make informed decisions through this customised, bespoke tool that uses the power of GIS. With integrated property information, accurate tree placement and building height determination; valuable insight may be gained as a time-saving desktop study. Users may furthermore use this platform in order to identify potential clients through insight into their building’s MWh potential output.

For more information on how to reduce your business’s corporate carbon footprint, and building investor confidence; read our article ‘The C-Word.’ 

26 Oct 2020. Deepak, J. SA must flick the switch on Cyril Ramaphosa’s green energy plan. Business Day. [online] Available at here [Accessed 2 August 2021].

Save Money With Solar Energy for Your Business. The balance small business. [online] Available here [Accessed 2 August 2021].

What is a Microgrid? Microgrid Knowledge [online] Available here [Accessed 2 August 2021].