Microgrids are used by Eskom as a solution to supplying green power where there are constrained networks, in rural and remote areas, to improve reliability, or as an alternative to avoid costly infrastructure. Microgrids can be a customer owned, partnership owned, or an Eskom owned site.

Microgrids are defined as: a collection of interconnected loads distributed energy resources (DER) within clear electrical boundaries acting as a single controllable entity with respect to the utility grid. The grid can be operated in an islanded mode maintaining the relevant quality of supply parameters independent of any technical grid and it can be grid-tied.

Customers who can benefit from microgrids:
communities who are too far from the Eskom grid to be connected efficiently are perfect for a microgrid solution. Also small, far-flung communities with terrain that is mountainous or difficult to traverse. Communities in areas that have Eskom network capacity constraints can be assisted with electricity using a microgrids installation.

Nature Conservation facilities such as SANPARKS and Provincial Nature Conservation organisations are a suitable market for microgrids solution. . Not only may these sites be remote, but overhead power lines built in conservation areas are prone to damage by mammals and then cause an electrocution hazard to wildlife. Using a renewable, clean energy with back up just makes sense in pristine nature conservancy areas.

Pro-green energy customers that are concerned with making a statement towards environmental conservation are suitable for microgrid installations too.

What are the benefits of microgrids?
The innovative employment of technology results in the following benefits:

  • Reduction of carbon emissions due to renewable energy being used
  • Local manufacture providing skills and economic upliftment
  • enhanced reliability and resilience
  • reduced environmental impact
  • power quality improvement
  • energy efficiency by loss reduction
  • Local Network congestion relief
  • Energy access to remote communities / plants / facilities

Why is Eskom offering its customers microgrids?

Eskom is interested in supplying dependable electricity to everyone and improve universal access. Electrification of communities has a positive trickle effect on socio-economic status of those communities.. Providing electricity to small, remote communities for the first time creates schooling, jobs, social and economic upliftment, and advancement.. Eskom sees microgrids as an opportunity to contribute to social upliftment.

Social Engineering and Customer Education

Together with supplying green energy to uplift a community, Eskom also takes the energy education of the residents very seriously. Residents are briefed on the safe use of electricity, what to do in case of a contact incident and how to use microgrid electricity sparingly to avoid overloading the system by using too much at one time. Click here to learn about electricity safety and click here to learn about energy efficiency.

Microgrid technology enables universal access to electricity by deploying modular, containerized, off-grid renewable power plants in outlying areas. Schools, small villages, and medical clinics all benefit and flourish once they are powered up. Microgrids are helping Eskom to strengthen its existing and sometimes constrained infrastructure.

Where has microgrid technology been proven?
Two pilot sites, namely Ficksburg and Lyndoch, have been established by Eskom to provide research and development opportunities to study the effectiveness of this type of power supply solution.

Ficksburg, a case in point, technology uplifting lives

  • The microgrid pilot in Ficksburg has successfully demonstrated in an operational live community that a cleaner electrification alternative to conventional grid supplied projects is indeed possible.
  • Off-grid microgrids can provide a greener alternative to electrifying far to reach, isolated communities where the cost of grid extension is too high. Bespoke solutions are also possible for game farms and other niche applications can include end of line grid strengthening and capital deferral.
  • Optimally balancing the storage and generation capacity with real time load management will achieve highest levels of continuity of supply and subsequent effect on the environmental impact of these technologies.
  • Social access and upliftment are key imperatives Eskom is pursuing, and this can also be achieved with the microgrid deployment programme.

The installation

  • The microgrid system at Ficksburg is optimized to host variable renewable generation technologies such as PV Solar and/or Wind, fuel cells.
  • The control system manages supply and demand conditions in near real-time, with self-healing and remote engineering/monitoring capabilities, as well as advanced security, and alarming.
  • The system is linked to a Control Centre that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to forecast factors that could impact the remote plant such as fire, weather and irradiation which are linked to the plant’s production.
  • Each plant creates a communication network with the users that can be leveraged for Internet access, & communications (education, health and social broadcasts and other value-added services)

As microgrids use renewable energy sources, they are playing an active and important role in reducing carbon emissions. The Ficksburg site mentioned earlier, has the following carbon score card to boast about.

Eskom currently has 3 sites being powered by microgrid technology. We are currently doing feasibility studies on more than 40 project sites around the country. Most of the identified sites will use PV as the primary source of energy, and Lithium Ion batteries for storage capability. Other sites will use micro wind turbines and small scale hydro turbines based on the most optimum energy source available.

The rollout of these projects will be phased over the next 5 years, starting slowly and later picking up as the technologies mature. The rollout is to be dictated by funds availability among other influences The estimated megawatts to be supplied to communities in SA using microgrids is projected to be 35MW based on the gathered list of sites.

Rural community leaders are invited to contact Eskom, so that their community may be considered for a microgrid installation. Any commercial or agricultural concern who want addition power on an existing line or any nature conservation facility is encouraged to make contact.

Project enquiries: E mail xxx at xxx for further information or to be invited to our next online seminar.

Technical enquiries regarding design and manufacture contact:

Eskom Research Testing and Development, Smart Grid Centre of Excellence, Nick Singh on mobile 083 415 6235 or e mail [email protected]