Since 2008, energy prices have been steadily increasing at an average rate of just under 19% per year across all sectors. With alternative energy sources becoming more affordable and accessible, more and more people are opting to invest in these as a means of curbing energy inflation.
To become more energy efficient, however, one needs to know where the energy is going. If you know where your energy is going, you know where to start your energy savings initiative. This also helps in the design and sizing of any alternative energy solution.
Measuring and managing energy consumption is often one of the most neglected aspects in industry and at home. Although people are becoming more aware of their energy management predicament, they generally do not know where to find help.
xRg Solutions (Pty) Ltd was formed for this sole purpose, to assist individuals and industry in realising and managing their energy needs. The key part in any energy initiative is the information available. This is why a joint venture was formed with Higeco Africa (Pty) Ltd (founded by David Marais).
Higeco Africa is the sole supplier of the Higeco energy management system and QEED energy hardware in Africa. The system not only measures energy at various locations, it also has the capability to manage the energy. This is especially attractive for customers who exceed their agreed-upon maximum power. The penalties for exceeding this limit are quite severe and industry will try and avoid this at all costs. With the Higeco system, limits can be implemented, which starts disabling low-priority equipment once these limits have been reached.
The system is also used widely in photovoltaic installations, with more than 320MW at over 540 sites around the globe being monitored.
The beauty of the system is, no matter where your installation sites are, all the data can be seen from your mobile device or web page. “Its all about information” says co-founder Dr Jonathan Olivier, a Mechanical Engineer and Certified Energy Manager.” Information will power your decisions.”
xRg also offers the design and implementation of renewable energy installations. In this area their main focus is largely photovoltaics as it is currently still the cheapest per installed Watt of all other renewables. Photovoltaics, however, is not the only renewable xRg specialise in, with wind and hydropower also being part of their salvo.
“The great thing about photovoltaics is their affordability”, says co-founder Dieter Voges. “Currently, when designed for self-consumption (all energy generated is utilised, with no feeding or selling back of energy to the utility), the current payback is between 4.5 and 7 years, depending on the electricity tariff plan you are currently on.”
The typical IRR (investment rate of return) is between 24 and 30% over 25 years”.
xRg is not a “one-size-fit-all” type of company. Each of their clients are unique, with unique problems, requiring unique solutions. This is why consulting and measuring is so important to xRg.
Following a consultation, energy will be measured for a set time period, followed by an initial energy audit. This enables xRg to determine what is really happening and how best to approach the problem.
If, for example, the clients require a photovoltaic system, xRg will then commence with a site survey taking into consideration the location and its surroundings.
The survey determines whether there are any site-specific considerations, such as objects that might generate shadows, which may influence the performance of the system. All project designs are then run through simulations with the results being used to refine and optimize the design and determine the financial feasibility.
Although xRg’s main focus area is on commercial/agricultural-sized systems, it does offer its services to the residential market.
For a photovoltaic system, for example, this market segment would normally require the use of a battery system. This is because the energy is mostly consumed at times when there is no sun, i.e. early mornings and evenings. Any excess energy produced by such a system needs to be stored for later use. What makes a system like this quite attractive is that the governing power utility becomes the back-up provider, not the main provider.
xRg also provide off-grid solutions, especially when it is large enough to make use of the micro-grid concept. Micro-grids are, in general terms, an off-grid system making use of a variety of energy sources at the same time, ie photovoltaics, wind, hydro and diesel generators. Each sub-system is optimally sized so that initial investment and operating costs are minimised, while still maintaining a high uptime probability. This is a very exciting field, with endless possibilities.
“Finding an economically viable, sustainable solution to a client’s problem brings us great satisfaction.” says Dr Olivier.
xRg has surrounded itself with a quality group of local and international suppliers and with it’s venture with Higeco Africa especially, the team is confident that it will give prospective clients a holistic solution, which will continue to offer reliable and informed energy management over the long term.
With renewables being at their current price-point, many are seeking this market sector as an investment opportunity.