Reducing diesel costs with a solar minigrid for resort hotel, South Africa

Photo: Thaba Eco Hotel hosts conferences, events and weddings despite a weak grid.

Power cuts are a part of everyday life in South Africa. For the Thaba Eco Hotel in the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve near Johannesburg, a dependable electricity supply is a must. So, the remote resort reinforces the weak local grid with a 100kWp solar array and backup diesel generators.

Reuben Louw, Thaba’s CEO, is passionate about minimising the business’ environmental impact. “It’s in our name so we take it seriously. ‘Eco’ was our vision long before it was fashionable to be so,” he explains.

Solar with diesel backup
The resort’s solar panels produce large amounts of energy during the day. But unfortunately, guests use most electricity at night when the solar panels are no longer generating.

The unreliable grid connection further complicates matters. Power cuts – or load shedding as it’s known locally – are common. Diesel generators are used for contingency but cause three issues for the business:

  1.    Noise (disturbing the guests)
  2.    Expense (fluctuating fuel and maintenance costs)
  3.    Pollution (carbon emissions and exhaust fumes)

Time shifting solar 24/7

By installing a midsized, 15kW-75kWh redT energy storage machine at the centre of a solar mini grid, the hotel can store its excess daytime solar energy until guests and staff need it at night. The storage machine also replaces Thaba’s diesel generators.

This means that a section of the hotel’s guest rooms and lodges are totally off-grid: using clean, reliable solar power and protected from both planned and unplanned power outages.

The redT 15-75 flow machine is at the heart of the Thaba Eco Hotel’s mini grid.

Cheaper, quieter and greener 

Reuben now has the secure energy supply his business demands. The stored solar power is discharged by the redT flow machine at a rate of 15kW for 5 hours. Providing his guests with dependable energy day in, day out.

The hotel’s mini grid is cheaper to run than diesel generators and more reliable than importing energy from the grid. As Reuben notes: “we’re no longer plagued by load shedding.”

The cost and uncertainty caused by the intermittent grid supply is in the past. But equally important for Reuben’s and Thaba’s ecological approach is that the “redT machines fit with our ethos and set a benchmark for our industry in South Africa.”

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