Load shedding is here to stay and irrespective of its cause, companies have to decide how they plan to deal with regular power shutdowns. You can accept the situation and send staff home, or let them sit and twiddle their thumbs, or you can spend the money required to power your own company.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked two power experts what solutions there are and how a company can decide on what power solutions they require. Our interviewees are Shane Griggs from PSS Distribution, and Deon Ferreira from Eaton.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: In terms of power management today, where many companies are looking at the means to provide their own independent power supply, what guidelines can you give potential customers.
Shane Griggs, PSS Distributors: The client needs to look at their current needs. What is important when experiencing a power failure? To date Eskom has been lenient enough to share load shedding daily for only a few hours, we can only hope that this is maintained and we only have to cater for a few hours per day.
The idea is to only have necessities on such as electronic equipment and emergency lights. Keeping the load as low as possible is vitally important as backup power is very expensive. Solutions for backup power can be UPS systems, inverters, generators or solar solutions.
Deon Ferreira, Eaton: Every requirement is unique; the services of a consulting engineer or a qualified electrician 'with generator experience' should be employed.
HSS: What systems are important to keep running in a blackout? It would not be realistic to think you can keep everything running as normal unless you have an enormous budget.
Shane Griggs, PSS Distributors: Even if you have an enormous budget, in the end, if you do not keep the cost of the backup device to the minimum, the future cost of your backup device can by far outweigh your expenditure.
The most important devices in the office will be telephones, computers, servers, switches, printers, security systems and so forth. In a business such as a bakery, it would be important to have the oven on backup power. At home, important equipment will be considered the computer, charger, TV and a few emergency lights.
Deon Ferreira, Eaton: Budget is the determining factor, the more equipment you require uninterrupted power to, the larger the bill. Continuous running during a load shed requires a UPS and a generator, or solar, wind power etc. However, as a standalone system solar and wind are not consistent.
HSS: What do end users need to know in terms of vocabulary and what do they need to know to make realistic decisions for independent power?
Shane Griggs, PSS Distributors: In the event of a power failure, they need to ask themselves: “What do I really need in order to run my business without hindrance”?
The end user needs to understand that any equipment with motors, halogen lights, laser or X-ray is not advised for backup power. These equipment require a high amount of current to start-up, therefore one has to over cater for the initial start-up of the equipment. By over catering, you would have to spend a lot more on your backup solution.
An example would be a customer who has two computers and a desktop printer he would like to backup for four hours. A simple solution would cost about R6000. If this same customer does not have a desktop printer, but only a laser copier, this same solution could easily cost in the region of R17 000.
Deon Ferreira, Eaton: The services of an electrical consulting engineer avoids the pitfalls. Engineers normally don’t sell the product, they sell the design concept with product recommendations based on engineered solutions.
HSS: How would you respond to someone who says that independent power is not necessary as Eskom will pick up the slack soon enough when the new power stations come online? Is this a realistic point of view?
Shane Griggs, PSS Distributors: Yes, this is true, but only in a few years. Eskom estimates two years, to be safe, I would double the time.
Deon Ferreira, Eaton: Long term, Eskom should ultimately resolve the issues with or without IPPs (Independent Power Providers).
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