March 2, 2016
Anyone living in South Africa will remember last year’s (2015) power outages. With our sunny climate, the most obvious solution to this seemingly perpetual problem is to install a solar back-up system to negate grid down time. Or if feasible, to go off grid completely. The initial capital cost, maintenance and longevity of the systems require much analysis to determine if this is a worthwhile investment. Other factors to consider are the physical size of the batteries and storage space, the frequency and replacement cost of the batteries, as well as where power will be received from if solar generation is weak (if off grid and during winter in the Western Cape for instance), cost and longevity of solar panels etc.
While there are local options to having a solar solution installed, the Tesla Powerwall has received much media attention and seems to be the go-to option. The available advertised date in South Africa was January 2016 with Tesla approved distributors currently undergoing training for the systems.
According to MyBroadband.co.za the four systems that will be available to the South African market through Rubicon are:
- Tesla Powerwall and 5kW SolarEdge inverter (part no. RUB-TES) — R116,000.
- Tesla Powerwall, 5kW SolarEdge inverter, and 3kWp solar panels (part no. RUB-TES3) — R169,000.
- Tesla Powerwall, 5kW SolarEdge inverter, and 5kWp solar panels (part no. RUB-TES5) — R210,000.
- Two Tesla Powerwalls, 5kW SolarEdge inverter, and 5kWp solar panels (part no. RUB-TES5.2) — R272,000.
These prices all exclude VAT, installation costs and are subject to exchange rate fluctuations. With the Rand dipping in the last few months, would the capital outlay be feasible? Luckily for me, Lawrence from GoingSolar.co.za did the rough calculations for easy evaluation. See his calculations here. My feeling is that it’s still too pricey for the average Joe.
So, what makes it different from other solar systems? There may be some complex science to this (I’m open to some explanation!), but it is probably just great marketing. The Powerwall isn’t built on cutting edge technology but is rather improvements on commercially available tech. The battery is what seems to make it different:
- it has a 10 year warranty (sourcing batteries in South Africa I couldn’t find warranties over 2 years)
- the chemistry is different to other acid based options (lithium-ion, nickel-manganese-cobalt and nickel-cobalt-aluminum)
- the storage design is slick and simple
- built-in cooling system
- easily scale-able for higher usage.
Another great development from the Tesla power solutions world is that they’re opening up an office in Cape Town – Tesla Energy – which will be headed up by Evan Rice, former GreenCape CEO. I’m excited for the potential economic benefit to the Western Cape if a Tesla Gigafactory becomes a reality in the province!