Menlyn saves money when it is sunny – SolarSaver

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In its marketing material the refurbished Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Tshwane describes itself as a “super regional shopping centre”. The largest shopping centre in Africa offers 177,000m² of Gross Leasable Area (GLA) and space for 8,250 cars.

To manage the cost of powering this retail behemoth and assist in maintaining a constant power supply, the developers are harnessing the power of the sun. The R2.5bn redevelopment including the installation of a SolarSaver solar system able to generate 1,834,702 kWh annually.

The grid tied system uses Canadian Solar PV panels connected to Huawei Inverters. The installed solar power system improves the centres environmental footprint and has allowed it to cut its carbon emissions by 1,926 tons and reduce oil usage to power generators by 1,129 barrels annually.

A key benefit of SolarSavers system is that the monitoring, maintenance, and insuring of the installed systems remains the responsibility of SolarSaver. The company’s proactive approach to maintenance includes monthly on-site audits and cleaning, and monthly independently audited performance reports.

As Stu Batchelor, SolarSaver Technical Director, points out, “Our clients have the tested assurance that systems are designed to last and can be scaled to supply changing power needs. It’s in our interest to ensure that the photovoltaic systems are operating at peak performance, and that translates into better savings for our clients.”

The company ethos is to pre-empt customer queries by being proactive when it comes to maintenance of installed systems. If issues do arise, a senior member of SolarSaver management is on call 24/7.

While rooftop and car parks with solar panels are becoming more ubiquitous in commercial settings and SolarSaver installation teams are skilled and efficient, the major challenge is the unsettled and changing legislative landscape. For the Menlyn system the biggest challenge was waiting for approval from the Tshwane council. Approval took over a year as their approval processes were updated and changed.

One important issue with this installation was a City of Tshwane guideline that required the solar system remain shut down during load shedding. This requirement meant the implementation of a generator integration system that ensured the solar system did not operate during loadshedding.

At this point, SolarSaver systems are designed to generate power during the day through grid-tied systems. The company is moving forward on updating systems to include batteries as the technology improves and becomes more cost effective.

As the regulatory environment becomes clearer and more defined, SolarSaver will offer fully financed, customised solar-battery systems that provide 24-hour power solutions. The company prefers to work with businesses to design long term solutions that will provide real alternatives to Eskom while growing their and their clients’ businesses. As Stu Batchelor states, “Grid-tied solar does not solve load shedding issues. What we’re offering is to invest our own capital to provide long-term solutions and not just expensive quick-fixes.”

SolarSaver systems are designed to be adaptable. They offer immediate cost savings by harnessing solar power to power systems with inbuilt infrastructure that allows them to plan for an off-grid future.

 

The redevelopment of the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre was driven by a need to improve customer shopping experience and drive sales for its tenants. A major concern for all tenants was the increase in the price of electricity, a cost passed on to tenants, and the unreliability of the local grid which affected their ability to do business.

Another requirement from the developer was the need for a system that could be installed with a minimum of red tape and without investing large amounts of capital. Eskom has a monopoly on power generation in South Africa. This has allowed the power utility to increase tariffs by over 350% over the last decade. This ever-increasing operational cost has made the search for solutions that contain this outlay has become more attractive and critical to business owners.

By utilising unproductive roof and parking space to generate renewable solar energy, SolarSavers made-to-order systems assist customers to cut their energy bills from the moment the system is operational. The company’s solution to power infrastructure limitations and rising costs is being utilised across Namibia, South Africa and now, Botswana by companies as diverse as petrol stations and food producers to shopping centres and agricultural operations.

Managed on rent-to-own contract terms, SolarSavers proprietary systems are installed without any capital outlay from the customer and without the need to acquire the expertise to build and operate a solar installation.

Think of SolarSaver as “offering ‘capex-free, hassle-free’ solar solutions – and on that basis installing a solar system from SolarSaver really should be a no- brainer,” says Stu Batchelor. Furthermore, annual rates increases are in line with CPI inflation, well below Eskom increases. “Our solar tariffs are significantly cheaper than the equivalent cost of grid power, so our clients get to start saving on their electricity bills from day one.”

For more information on SolarSaver, click here.

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