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South Africa’s Growthpoint Properties Invests R50 Million In Solar + Battery System At Paarl Mall

Growthpoint Properties is an international property company with assets in South Africa, Eastern Europe, Australia, and the UK. Growthpoint is also South Africa’s largest primary Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Growthpoint owns and manages a diversified portfolio of over 500 property assets, locally and internationally. The company has been one of the leaders when it comes to adopting solar in South Africa, with the solar already installed at some of its sites generating 10,947MWh (as at the end of FY20). Growthpoint has a firm target of installing 20MW of solar on its sites across South Africa in the very near future and has already identified the sites to install all this solar. Growthpoint has prioritized energy efficiency, off-site renewables, on-site renewables, and carbon offsets as four critical role players in its overall strategy.

Growthpoint is taking the lead in South Africa yet again by investing R50 million ($US3 million) in a system that includes a new battery that will be the largest battery system installed so far in the C&I sector in South Africa. The 4.5MW battery (no information on the MWhs at the moment), will be installed at Paarl Mall. Paarl Mall has more than 100 stores and is anchored by major players in South Africa’s retail scene such as Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Dis-Chem, Edgars, and group brands such as Clicks, Truworths, and The Foschini Group. The 4.5MW lithium-ion battery system, in the form of three 20-foot containers, will be charged from the mall’s solar plant as well as from the grid. The mall’s new solar plant will cover 25,000 square meters and be built using more than 5000 PV panels with a total installed  capacity of 2.5 MW. The plant will generate 3,601 MWh of energy per year. The solar and battery system are set to be fully operational by end of this year.

“Proving the concept and technology would provide a big push in the right direction towards our carbon reduction targets. We are hoping to onboard more malls with this solution to future-proof our assets, protect them from load-shedding and optimise energy costs,” says Growthpoint retail asset management head Neil Schloss.

“With our clean, uninterrupted energy initiative at Paarl Mall, we are striving to create a win-win for the mall, its community, the country and the planet. It is all about coming together and finding cooperative solutions for shared and sustainable long-term gains.”

The installation will aim to optimize energy arbitrage opportunities, charging the battery using cheaper off-peak electricity and discharging it during peak hours, helping with peak-shaving. The battery will also help meet some of the mall’s load during load-shedding.

South Africa’s grid is mostly powered by coal. As firms look to lower their carbon emissions, more of them will add rooftop solar and batteries to complement their consumption from the grid as well as enhance their energy security in an environment of increasing electricity rationing, infamously known as load-shedding in this part of the world. South Africa is going through some of its worst ever electricity rationing periods as the national power utility company, Eskom, struggles to meet demand.

Although South Africa’s installed electricity generation capacity is almost 50,000MW, Eskom has about 4,872 MW on planned maintenance and another 13,983MW of capacity unavailable due to breakdowns as of 1pm South African time today, and therefore Eskom will implement stage two load-shedding again this week. Eskom’s load-shedding program is structured in “Stages” where Eskom sheds a certain quantum of load from the grid to stabilize the grid. So, depending on the severity of the crisis, load-shedding is implemented in stages from Stage 1 to Stage 8, where Stage 1 sheds 1,000 MW of load from the grid and in a Stage 8 scenario, Eskom takes out 8,000 MW of load from the grid. Load-shedding is implemented over 2-hour or 4-hour blocks on a rotational basis depending on the severity of the crises. Stage 8, however, means most consumers will experience a blackout for about 12 hours.

We are only halfway through the year, but already 2022 has been the worst year of load-shedding on record. Already, South Africans have experienced more load-shedding in the past 6 months than in the whole of 2021! As prices of large scale battery storage fall and hopefully supply chain constraints start to ease, we should start to see more of these large battery storage projects in South Africa’s C&I space.

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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