With Eskom’s load shedding totals steadily increasing, many South Africans are looking for alternatives. While some only want a backup system that negates the worst of the blackouts, some want to be completely independent of Eskom and are considering going off-grid.
But what does it cost to go off-grid? In an IOL article Hannes van den Berg, the CEO of Consult, said that the cost of going off the grid was “upwards of R250,000”.
“Going off the grid is also not a once-off investment, but rather a lifelong commitment.” He mentions the cost of eventually replacing solar panels as well as batteries as they wear out over time. In the same article, Khumbulani Mpofu, the founder of Kane Solutions – a solar supplier and installer – said that an installation to reduce Eskom dependency costs around R170 000.
Why the big cost?
But why is there such a large jump from being partially off-grid or completely off-grid? That comes down to the size of a system required to mitigate bad weather or unpredictable usage. Going completely off-grid requires an oversized system to handle those times when sunny South Africa gets a spell of overcast, cloudy days.
In an interview with MyBroadband, the managing director of AWPower, Christiaan Hattingh, discussed some of the situations that off-grid customers need to prepare for. He mentioned that a solar system will lose between 10 and 20% of its capacity during overcast weather.
Oversizing the system to handle bad weather conditions and still keep you completely off the grid requires a fairly large inverter, as well as all the batteries to store energy for use during the night. Hattingh said that you need to know your power system, as well as your power needs, intrinsically. He says that most people need a radical mind shift to be more conscious of how and when they use appliances.
Finding the magic number for going off-grid
In a Capitec article on things to consider for going off-grid, they estimate the price of going off-grid as somewhere between R150,000 and R350,000. This is the cost without including the replacement of batteries every 8 to 10 years, as well as the eventual replacement of solar panels, which can last anywhere from 25 to 40 years.
But there is a solution that requires considerably less money, while still making you almost independent of Eskom. Many electricians are recommending a 95% off-grid system. By keeping your connection to Eskom, many of the situations that call for an oversized power solution are avoided. This means the cost of the initial installation is much, much lower. Having a system that can pull a small amount of electricity from Eskom when you experience a bout of bad weather means a smaller battery capacity, a smaller number of solar panels and a smaller inverter. It also means you don’t need to buy and maintain a generator to top up the system when reserves are low.
How much less? Inverter prices go up sharply when increasing in capacity. While a Deye 5kVA inverter costs around R27,000 a 12kVA system (which is what a home that uses 1,200kWh monthly would need) is just over R61,000! Similarly, the prices jump up when going from batteries for a 95% system (about 15kWh) to an oversized off-grid option of 80kWh of batteries.
A home that uses less power per day will be cheaper to take off-grid too, which is why you should consider checking for the energy efficiency of your appliances, turning down the temperature of your geyser, and making sure that all lights on your property are LEDs, which use a fraction of the power that other bulb types do.
For more information, visit your nearest ACDC Express and talk to one of our product specialists about backup solutions and energy-efficient products!