Energy & Environment

Sunday, 24 July 2011 22:26

South Africans show resourcefulness under pressure from Eskom

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Almost like the British in the blitzes of the Second World War, South Africans have shown amazing resilience in the current energy crisis enveloping South Africa.
During the blitzes, the residents of the bombed areas bitterly complained much like we South Africans do, but actually ended up, gritting their teeth and getting on with it. There was no end date to the misery suffered during the war; at least we know that we will only be suffering for the next 5 years or so.

Times of crisis often lead to moments of ingenuity, innovativeness and sometimes-unscrupulous behaviour, companies are fast realising that there is profit to be made from doom and gloom. Be they candle makers or gas bottle distributors; they are struggling to keep up with the demand.

X-Stream geysers though have been around for many years and their forward thinking, environmentally friendly Managing Director, Dawie Thirion, is dumbfounded by Eskoms poor performance.

“Eskom must be one of the only companies that tells its customers that they should stop buying its product. Rather than penalising the poor consumer, who has no choice but to buy his electricity from the parastatal, they should have looked at alternative ways to conserve and increase production of power”, says Thirion.

X-stream is a Paarl-based company manufacturing geysers that have been specifically designed to be heated via solar panels.

“With load-shedding becoming a daily occurrence, one would have expected the public to turn to solar geysers. Somewhat surprisingly this has not been the case. We believe that there are several reasons for this. The first being a lack of credible information about the benefits of a solar geyser. More importantly, what we believe is happening at the moment is that the public is waiting for Eskom to confirm the subsidies they have been promising for consumers who already have solar geysers installed and the type of subsidies home and business owners can expect when they purchase the units”.

Thirion continues. “Once there is clarification of the exact nature of these subsidies, the demand will far outweigh installation capacity”.

A lack of qualified installers could well be the next problem facing consumers.

Eskoms reticence to implement the promised subsidies is not helping with the excess usage of power. The installation of the initial 250,000 remote override switch on geysers could be seen as an infringement of human rights as well as inconvenient to the thousands of shift workers and possibly not as effective as first thought.

“The majority of geysers have thermostats that turn on and off according to the temperature of the water, if a switch is turned off, the water will cool down and the amount of power required to reheat the water would very closely equate to the amount of power used by the thermostat”, adds Thirion.

At the Mellon Housing Initiative in Paarl, X-stream has provided nearly all the houses with solar panel heated geysers.

“There is limited electricity in the area, yet residents have a regular flow of hot water. By using the solar panels and geyser to heat their water, there is no drain on the national grid at all. If Eskom subsidised similar projects, it affects would extremely positive”, Thirion continues.

Another innovative project taken on by x-Stream is the recycling of heat produced on restaurant and hotel stoves to heat water for washing dishes.

“Up until now, all the heat was wasted, now with the simple installation of some discreet pipe work and a tank together with a patented plate for the stove ample hot water is produced. This is not reliant on there being an electricity supply”, ends Thirion.

The harnessing of alternative sources of power would lessen the load on the national grid and also provide power to more remote communities where electricity is not available.

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