Load-shedding creating massive demand for battery backup systems

Eskom load-shedding has once again caused a surge in demand for battery backup and solar power systems in South Africa, said Rubicon sales director Greg Blandford.

Local battery producers are working as fast as they can to keep up with demand, and Blandford said they are bringing hardware into South Africa as fast as they can.

All their stock is essentially sold before it lands, he added.

Tesla’s Powerwall batteries are also sold out in South Africa, and Blandford predicted that the Powerwall will only be available from 2020.

“We’ve been securing batteries all over the place,” Blandford said. “There are lithium battery production facilities in Cape Town and Johannesburg.”

One such producer is BlueNova Energy, which normally puts out around a megawatt-hour (MWh) of battery capacity in a month. In the first week of December, they already had orders totalling 2MWh.

“They will be flat out busy throughout December and into the new year, until at least February,” Blandford said BlueNova.

Blandford said many other suppliers are also working hard to meet the increased demand.

Rubicon is also bringing in stock of a Powerwall-equivalent system from Eaton called xStorage. It offers 6kWh of battery capacity with a built in solar inverter, and uses battery packs recycled from Nissan Leaf vehicles.

They also offer hybrid systems from Delta Electronics, which use a 6kWh Panasonic lithium battery pack.

Buckle up for the long haul

Eskom dished out load-shedding regularly at the end of 2018, due to maintenance work and unplanned outages at power stations.

It also issued a warning stating that coal stockpiles had dwindled below minimum limits at many power plants.

Eskom is also feeling the legacy of deferred maintenance, and the repercussions of using poor-quality coal.

The government has said that no load-shedding is anticipated from 15 December to 15 January, however, due to businesses shutting down.

Load-shedding will likely continue in 2019 as pressure on the grid returns to normal, but Eskom has promised it will likely be able to stop load-shedding by March 2019.

Energy experts have warned that years of electricity problems still lie ahead for South Africa, though.

Now read: See how much money Eskom and SAA lose every second

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Load-shedding creating massive demand for battery backup systems