Business Feature | Lighthaus
November 12, 2018
Business Feature | BioFusion
November 12, 2018

ECRDA | 35kwt renewable energy system roll out

THE EASTERN CAPE RURAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (ECRDA) says it has spent R2,4 million in the first phase of a renewable energy system at its Rural Enterprise Development (RED) hubs in order to reduce production costs at the four sites.

A further R10 million is required to roll-out phase two of the renewable energy system at all the RED hubs. The agency has already installed a 35kwh grid tied PV solar powered system at each of the RED hubs as part of the first phase. The hubs are located at Emalahleni Local Municipality, Ncora in the Intsika Yethu Local Municipality, Mqanduli in the King Sabatha Dalindyebo Local Municipality and in Mbizana at the Mbizana Loal Municipality.

These hubs link production to processing mills at the villages and other value adding operations as well as marketing. In practice this means, for example, maize is grown by the community, milled in the community, processed and packaged in the community and even sold back into the community with the whole process being owned by these communities.

“The reason for the installation of this system is to reduce high production costs at the RED hubs thereby making them more competitive in the open market by scaling down high overheads of expensive Eskom power. The milling plants at the RED hubs consume most of the electricity. The plan is to develop these systems to such an extent that they are off-grid and rely solely on power generation and to relieve the pressure on Eskom.

“In practice, when the sun is out, the system operates taking over from Eskom power and it will generate its own power. When the sun goes down Eskom takes over again. Even on cloudy days if the PV system isn’t working to capacity, Eskom will supplement the shortfall. ECRDA needs about R10 million to roll out phase two which includes the installation of a battery back-up system at all the hubs. Integrated into phase two is to have alternative energy supplying water to the RED hubs where necessary. For example, the Mbizana RED hub has no water and it has to be carted from nearby streams.

“We intend to put in wind turbines to pump water up to the hub,” says ECRDA renewable energy specialist Roger Maclachlan.

Maclachlan says the Mbizana RED hub will be the first to benefit from phase two of the system in 2018 with the installation of a battery back-up system at the cost of R2 million. This means that when the solar panels are working at capacity, they also charge batteries so that the batteries will release power when the PV panels are no longer receiving adequate sunlight. The other RED hubs will also receive the same system once budget has been secured.


A village of 67 households at Upper Blinkwater outside Fort Beaufort not due to receive Eskom power in the next 10 years is the beneficiary of a first of its kind mini grid renewable energy system pilot project which should be functional by the end of the year.

The Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) has funded the first phase of the collaborative multi-stakeholder pilot at a cost of R1,4 million. A ground mounted PV system of 75 kwh power as well as a security fence have already been installed.
“The second phase involves supplying the containers and battery storage facility and diesel generation. The third phase will be the installation of overhead power lines to each of the households with a smart meter.

“The smart meter regulates the power and warns you timeously when too much power is being used or when there isn’t enough power. This system will be managed by the Raymond Mhlaba Local Municipality and data will be collected by a research team from the University of Fort Hare to determine if the mini grid is a viable option for roll out to other areas,” says Maclachlan.

He says the main objective of the project is to supply households that have no electricity with power and to encourage local enterprises and to make it more attractive for Eskom to supply power as they will only need to erect a supply line to the area because commissioned infrastructure will be to Eskom standards. By the end of 2018 the system will be commissioned and functional.

He says phase two and three will be funded by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the province of Lower Saxony in Germany.