MechChem Africa

Global power management company, Eaton, recently inaugurated a new microgrid at its Wadeville site in Gauteng, South Africa, which includes the first deployment in Africa of Eaton’s energy storage system, xStorage. The microgrid is geared towards enabling the site to become self-sufficient from an energy consumption perspective, relieving pressure on the national electricity grid and associated electrical infrastructure. Glynnis Koch reports.

“Today’s opening of the Wadeville microgrid system is an important step for Eaton in South Africa. This installation is a demonstration of our commitment to develop sustainable access to energy in the region,” said Seydou Kane, managing director of Eaton Africa. “This microgrid system will enable a more intelligent and cost-effective operation of our facility and serves as a concrete case for the application of this technology in both commercial and industrial facilities.”

Solar EATON Wadeville xStorage

A 200 kWp rooftop solar photovoltaic system has been installed on the roof of the company’s Wadeville facility, which supplies power for direct use on sunny days with any excess used to charge the xStorage system. The microgrid is also connected to an Eskom supply and to a backup generator to give a 375 kVA maximum capacity that meets the facilities total demand.

Demonstrating the system during the launch, Eaton’s Africa Nico Archer set a 50 kW limit from the utility. The rooftop solar system provided up to 180 kW, with the second-use lithium ion batteries in the xStorage system automatically making up the balance of the prevailing 280 kW load. “The battery storage system can be recharged from the Eskom grid during low tariff periods or directly from the solar panels when they are generating more power than required,” explained Archer.

Eaton, a leader in electrical energy for buildings and inverter, UPS and power electronic technology, has joined forces with Nissan, a proven, high volume manufacturer of reliable Li-ion batteries, to develop the xStorage system, which is based on the use of new or second-life Li-ion electric vehicle batteries from Nissan EVs. The xStorage system combines several aspects of energy storage and power delivery into one system. This functionality includes multiple energy inputs – such as solar and the grid – battery storage using second-life or new Nissan Leaf batteries, and UPS capabilities for clean, balanced power delivery. xStorage stores electrical energy so that it can be used on-demand to power businesses or to participate in demand response programmes, by selling energy back to the grid, for example.

Replacement of the Li-ion batteries in an EV is recommended when its remaining capacity is below 80% of its new capacity. At that point the battery will be ‘retired’ from vehicle use. Nissan also now offers an eight years warranty for its batteries against capacity loss below 70%, the only EV manufacture to do so. The use of second-life lithium-ion batteries from Nissan expands the useful life of electric vehicle batteries, reducing the need to use additional resources from the planet to produce new batteries.

With storage capacity from 21 kWh with five battery packs in series, to several MWh made up of 10 battery 42 kWh racks, Eaton Nissan xStorage systems using 4.2 kWh second-life batteries come with a five-year warranty for daily full charge and discharge cycles, while if new 6.0 kWh batteries are used on the same full cycle, they are warranted for 10 years.

Microgrids such as this can increase resilience, provide higher levels of energy independence, support grid stability and reduce energy costs by up to 40%. A similar sized microgrid could provide energy for 230 community homes. In Africa, where millions are still without modern energy services, microgrid technology is increasingly being considered as a solution to address energy poverty. Ageing infrastructure and grid reliability continue to be issues across the region and improving grid reliability will improve business continuity, minimise business losses and improve economic growth.

According to World Bank Group Enterprise Surveys, on average, African manufacturing enterprises experience power outages lasting 5.7 hours on 56 days per year. These outages result in firms losing an average of 6.0% of sales revenues, but losses can be as high as 20% where back-up generation is limited. As a result, universities, hospitals, corporations and local communities are now considering microgrids as a way to increase power reliability and availability to meet their critical demand.

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