Meeting your energy needs
Most often, our clients are looking for one or more of the following:
- ways to reduce their energy costs,
- reliable alternatives to utility (grid) power,
- methods to reduce their carbon footprint.
This is what we advise to achieve these goals:
- The cheapest power is the power you don’t use: first implement an energy efficiency programme, to ensure you are not using more power than you should.
- Make sure the power you do use is from the cheapest source: install solar PV – the most common source of cheap, clean energy for corporate clients – or other cost-saving green
- Add energy backup, but not as a standalone: a secure source of power is possible
with a combination of batteries and/or generators but given the expense we recommend
minimising their use by following the above steps first.
Our solutions generally involve one of the following:
For any energy solution to be truly effective, it is vital first to ensure you are using electricity efficiently.
Opportunities to improve the efficiency with which electricity is used, or simply to reduce consumption, arise as technology improves and as systems evolve. With your permission, Broadreach and its technical partners will gather information on your electricity consumption, to give you an insight into opportunities for efficiency gains or savings that can be harnessed over time.
Areas where efficiency gains are most often realised, include changing to more efficient lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, refrigeration and variable speed drives. In addition, savings can be achieved through intelligent power management systems that control and limit when and how power is used.
On-Grid Solar Solutions
An on-grid (also known as grid-tied) solar system is connected directly to the user in the same way as their existing grid power supply. An on-grid power solution consists of solar panels that generate direct current (DC) power when sunlight is absorbed by the cells within the panels. An inverter converts the DC current from the panels to alternating current (AC) power that can displace power supplied from the grid by a utility. The inverter electronics use a signal from the grid to ensure that the AC power is synchronized with the grid power and can be used in parallel with grid power.
An on-grid solar system reduces the amount of electricity you buy from the utility, and may, if designed to do so, feed electricity back onto the grid, allowing you to sell power back to the utility. This type of solar configuration is simple and therefore is typically the cheapest form of solar power. Its drawbacks are that it only supplies power when the sun is shining and the grid is operating. Without batteries or a generator, an on-grid solar system will not operate during load-shedding.
Off-Grid Solar Solutions
An off-grid solar system is completely disconnected from any utility electricity grid. When the sun is shining the solar power can be consumed by the user, and any unused power is used to charge a battery. The charging of the battery is regulated by a charge controller which is designed to preserve the life of the battery and use the power available most efficiently. When the sun goes down, DC power is fed to the user from the battery via an inverter that converts the power to AC for consumption. Off-grid systems that require large amounts of power, or which may have to operate for long periods without sunshine, may also include a generator.
Off-grid systems are stand-alone and can be deployed in almost any circumstances to provide power. Typically they are deployed in remote areas such as mines (for large systems), or in rural villages and lodges (for smaller systems), where there is no grid access. Smaller off-grid systems provide relatively expensive power when compared to utility connected systems due to the cost of batteries and generators. However, given the high cost of fuel, they are usually less expensive than using generators only, and have the advantage of a lower carbon footprint and added levels of redundancy.
Hybrid Solar Solutions
A hybrid system is configured similar to an off-grid system but is also connected to the utility grid. It incorporates solar PV for cost savings, grid power for times when solar power is not available, and batteries and/or a generator to ensure continuous power supply when the grid is down. Hybrid systems can pick and choose between solar PV, grid power, batteries and generators, depending on the availability and cost of each.
A hybrid configuration makes sense for users that have an unreliable utility electricity supply that regularly needs to be supplemented. It is an appropriate solution for load-shedding. Depending on a client’s needs, a hybrid system can incorporate either or both batteries and a generator. Generators are generally cheaper to use as a back-up to combat load-shedding, but they take time to warm up when the grid goes down. If a client requires a “seamless” power solution with no interruptions, then batteries are usually incorporated into the design, as they can provide instantaneous power.
Some utilities also charge high rates for users with high demand or during peak times, in which case a hybrid system can reduce these charges.