Preparing now for winter loadshedding


Although we are still enjoying the heat of the summer it will not be too long before winter is here and with it the increasing threat of loadshedding. So the timing is opportune to examine what power back up solution you need to cope with this impending possibility.

Several loadshedding solutions exist and one needs to be careful not to go over the top and spend excessively on developing a solution or over engineering what is actually required.  One of the most effective solutions is to have a backup electrical power generator that can take over the load of your business or home. If you only install a generator without an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS), you have 2 options of starting the generator when the power fails, one which automatically detects the power is out and the second where you have to switch the power over to the generator manually. The latter obviously being the less expensive solution. Both solutions without a UPS will have a blackout period before the generators starts up and delivers power.

If you want to go the solar route or generator route you would need to consult with an engineer or electrician that knows what they are doing. When installing a solar solution the best is to combine this with a battery solution, electrical switchgear, controller (the brain) and an inverter to switch the direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) which house and office buildings use. Back up for appliances such as element heaters, kettles, geysers, electrical stoves or anything that uses an element to heat up something is generally not a good idea when only using batteries and a solar solution. Installing a solar panel also requires the optimal amount of sunlight which is normally achieved in South Africa by using a 27 degree angled roof which is north facing to the sun.

Other solutions when considering cooking and heating to combat loadshedding, are to use gas stoves and heaters. There are gas water heaters available that will heat up water as you open a tap. You can also install a solar water heater and geyser. The gas and solar water heater market in SA is now well developed and provides some great and innovative solutions.

What about lighting? Another option is to use emergency LED battery power lights installed at key locations in your house or office building. These lights are normally connected to a power source that continuously charges the light. When the power fails these lights switch on automatically.

The most critical issue to understand about loadshedding or loss of power is that it can happen at any time. The cause can be a scheduled outage or something like a substation failure in the suburb which could take days to fix. Over the past few years we have been provided with a schedule for loadshedding detailing when and for how long. However as we have all experienced these are not always that accurate and so extra planning and back up is often required.

As an organisation it is also best to ensure you have an automated switchover generator and a UPS. Most importantly a business should never switch back immediately to street power when it returns after loadshedding. In many cases the load is too high on the affected area causing power dips or there are unwanted spikes that run through the electrical system causing damage. The electrical switchgear is very sensitive to this and easily damaged. It’s best to give it at least 15 minutes before switching back to street power.

Planning is critical not only around the engineering side, but also understanding the needs of your business with regard to power demands. Ideally conduct a Business Impact Assessment (BIA), develop a strategy and then write a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). The strategy will be to involve the technology team, business and management of an organisation to decide on the best strategy to deal with loadshedding or prolonged power outages. If the service the company provides is critical and cannot afford downtime, the solution will be to develop a system that can supply uninterrupted electrical power.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Willem A Olivier has been involved in Business Continuity Management since 2001. He achieved his Fellowship (FBCI), with the Business Institute of the United Kingdom (BCI) in 2014. Willem completed his National Diploma in Electronics in 1986 and has since then been actively involved in the Information Technology and Business Continuity sectors. Currently General Manager of International Business at ContinuitySA since 2015 attending to all our international businesses and ensuring further development of our international footprint. He was previously employed as Head of Crisis Management at Barclays Africa and Head of Business Continuity Management at Cell C, attending to all aspects of crisis management and business continuity with these organisations. Prior to this he acquired considerable experience in business continuity by heading up or consulting for several local and international businesses such as Liberty and Standard Bank. [/author_info] [/author]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.