Reducing carbon footprint by 50% with solar energy solution



In early-2015, Jasco, a company that delivers end-to-end best-of-breed solutions across the entire ICT, Power, Enterprise and Security value chains, realised the opportunity to become a leader in the field of renewable energy, harnessing its expertise on a solar project at its own head office complex: Jasco Park.

Located in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, Jasco Park houses over 250 of the firm’s staff, as well as a data centre and various other amenities. The vision was to use solar-sourced electricity to power much of the campus’ energy needs, to cut down on the costs of traditional power, reduce dependency on the national grid, and gain valuable insights into clean energy deployments. The company is also able to use its head office as a reference site and showcase.

The solution

The team began the installation of a solar carport system in April 2015, leveraging the real estate available above the carports used by staff and visitors. Phase 1 of the project involved the installation of 53 kWp of solar panels, accompanied by two 25 kW inverters to generate up to 50 kW AC power during peak generation periods.

Fig. 1: Solar carport under construction.

The westerly orientation of the first phase of the project, which resulted from the layout of the existing carport, meant that peak solar generation occurred in the early afternoon, matching the peak load profile of the company’s campus.

Phase 2 saw the additional installation of a brand new solar carport system in the northern section of the campus. This upgrade resulted in the total PV generation of the site increasing to 150 kWp with an increase in invertor output power to 125 kW AC.

Fig. 2: Impact of solar PV generation on grid power demand.

The solar system remains tied to the national grid, which enables seamless consumption between both the traditional power source and the new solar generation. Energy needs are primarily served by solar power and supported by the national grid where needed. In this way, in situations such as power outages, the solar system is not a backup to traditional power, but rather a complementary source of clean energy. In the event of power cuts, the site still switches-over to standby generators which keep the datacentre running and ensures that staff are still able to work.

Throughout the process, the company used this project as an opportunity to create blueprints for its renewable energy programmes within its clients’ environments This began with a thorough analysis of the current load and consumption levels, the times of the day that demand peaks, the tariffs that are being paid and so on.

From this analysis, the company seeks to match a green energy solution to these needs and start quantifying the capex required versus the savings that are predicted over time. Ultimately, the company fleshed out a full business case and predicted a clear accrual timeframe.

The company’s vision for this project was to showcase the opportunities presented by using solar energy, and to use it as a demonstrate for its clients, and to encourage other corporates to embrace clean energy.

To this end, the company considered the full ambit of civil engineering and construction needs. The team settled on a cantilever system which does not require any unsightly poles in the front, and ensures that cars cannot accidently bump into the structures. This design also creates a more aesthetic, futuristic feel to staff and visitors s they arrive on the site.

Fig. 3: Solar carport in position.

The benefits

By the end of the second phase, the team had effectively matched the campus demand with a reliable supply of new, clean energy. As a result of this initiative, the company has reduced its maximum demand by 27% and reduced its electrical consumption from the power utility by 33%. Both these reductions have resulted in significant financial savings. If one projects these savings going forward it is easy to see how the company has insulated itself against future tariff increases.

Overall, the company has reduced its carbon footprint by 50% and the payback timeframe is pegged at five to six years. However, if national energy tariffs and carbon taxes rise above inflation, that timeframe may be shortened. At certain periods of time such as at weekends, the site becomes a net exporter of electricity – selling energy back to the national grid and creating a new, growing revenue stream.

The project has also enabled the company to have the right client conversations, as it can show them the positive impact of solar – not just from a business perspective, but also in addressing macroeconomic and climate change issues.

From the company’s experiences with its own site, the firm’s is equipped to focus on the engineering, procurement and construction requirements for solar energy systems in high-end residential, commercial and small-scale utility projects. According to a recent report, renewable energy – which encompasses primarily hydroelectricity, wind, solar and geothermal energy – now accounts for roughly 8% of total global energy generation [1].

As South Africa looks towards a future of electricity tariff hikes, the advent of carbon tax, and a corresponding decline in the costs of solar, the growth of the use solar energy in corporate South Africa is expected to increase.

Reference

[1]. http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/renewable-energy.html

Contact Kevin Norris, Jasco, Tel 011 746-6800, kevin.norris@jasco.co.za

 

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