Power utility Eskom has asked the public to reduce electricity usages after a number of generation units tripped, leading to a constrained power supply.
“This morning one generation unit each at the Kendal and Tutuka power stations tripped, adding to the Tutuka unit that tripped yesterday evening,” it said, adding that teams are working to return these units to service.
A generation unit at Medupi that tripped on Tuesday evening has been returned to service.
“Any additional breakdowns will compromise Eskom’s ability to supply the country through the peak demand period of 17:00 – 21:00. This constrained supply situation may persist through the weekend. ”
Eskom has not instituted nationwide load shedding since the start of the lockdown in late March after power usage plunged as much of the economy was shut down. But it has been cutting power to localised areas in what it calls load reduction.
Judging by the state of Eskom, loadshedding is here to stay. So what is the best solution to get you through the average 4-hour load shedding schedule? A generator, or a UPS with long life batteries?
It really all depends on your circumstances.
If your business or home is located in a low noise area, such as office blocks, flats or apartments, then a silent UPS solution is probably the best way to go, even though the initial capital investment may be three or more times that of a generator.
Of course, the new type inverter type generators are more silent, but the cost is more than double that of conventional generators of the same size.
What most people don’t realise is that even though the upfront cost of a generator may seem an attractive proposition, there are associated hidden costs in the form of fuel costs, maintenance costs and spare parts. If the generator is a “cheapie” from China without local support from an official distributor, then beware. You could be forced to dump it after only a few months.
Installation costs of a generator may also be slightly more than that of a UPS, as you would have to install a manual changeover switch, to switch to either generator power or to grid power, depending on the situation.
With most UPS systems, changeover is an automatic process; when Eskom or City Power fails, the system automatically switches to battery power through an inverter.
Yes, it is true that a generator can be fitted with an automatic change over switch, but with costs exceeding R15 000 to R20 000, you may as well go the UPS route.
With a UPS there are no fuel or maintenance costs. Reputable UPS systems have intelligent battery chargers that ensure maximum battery efficiency for long life. Yes, depending on the type of deep cycle battery used (5 or 10 year lifespan), as well as the frequency of re-charges, one would have to plan ahead to replace batteries when they reach end of life. The benefits however will far outweigh the costs.
A pure sinewave UPS offers seamless, clean and stable power during load shedding, enabling you to power sensitive devices such as computers and modems.
To cut down the initial investment of a UPS, consider a system with fewer batteries.
Do you really need 6-8 hours backup, or will 3-4 hours do? Remember that during load shedding you can extend the length of the rated backup by simply connecting the bare minimum equipment.
For example, in a home environment, lights, TV/DSTV and Internet; or in an office environment, lights, the telephone system, computers and Internet. Most of this can be achieved with a 2-3KVA UPS or generator.
Insistence on buying large generators, far exceeding power requirements during a power outage, results in fuel going to waste.
A generator is only a true necessity if the power outages in your area are over 8 hours or longer.
In those cases, the cost of a UPS with backup batteries would become prohibitive – unless of course, it has a solar power option that would deal with daytime power outages.
Choose wisely and never over-capitalise if the main focus is to simply get through the load shedding sessions.
By Henri Pereira for FocalCom