Taking forward its sustainability agenda while safeguarding operational performance, Murray & Roberts Cementation is now powering its Bentley Park site near Carletonville using solar energy.
The move puts the multi-purpose training and engineering facility on a stable and reliable energy platform, according to Murray & Roberts Cementation engineering services executive Hercilus Harmse. It is also in line with the company’s strategic aim of reducing its carbon footprint.
“In recent years, the case for a more sustainable energy supply has grown – especially with ongoing load shedding and power outages due to cable theft,” says Harmse. “This solution allows the leveraging of solar energy to protect the facility against the direct and indirect disruption caused by unreliable electricity supply.”
The solution is a hybrid system using solar energy for most of the site’s requirements, with lithium batteries providing continuous electricity in the case of outages. The existing backup diesel generating system adds another level of redundancy.
“This comprehensive design assures customers that we can continue to deliver our training and refurbishment services irrespective of the threats facing our national energy network,” he says.
The photovoltaic installation comprises almost 1,400 solar panels and will generate 726 kW of power for the site. Securely situated adjacent to Bentley Park’s offices, training rooms, workshops and other infrastructure, the solar farm comprises about a hectare of north-facing, ground-mounted photovoltaic panels at an efficient 12-degree angle. These also feed into 800 kWh of battery capacity, which provide uninterrupted flow to the range of sophisticated electrical and electronic equipment on site.
“As our operational technology at Bentley Park advances, there is steadily more risk posed by unplanned outages,” Harmse notes. “Our training equipment, for instance, today includes sensitive and costly computerised tools such as simulators, which ideally require constant and controlled energy supply.”
These risks add to the time and opportunities lost when outages prevent training being conducted according to plan, or refurbishments and other engineering work being completed on time. He argues that the direct and indirect costs of power failures made the decision to invest in renewable energy a “no-brainer”. The board approval of the project’s budget allowed work to proceed from mid-2021, with the installation starting in November 2021 and commissioning was completed at end-January 2022. It is estimated that the investment will pay itself back through direct savings in just seven years.
Prior to starting, the project required extensive data collection and analysis to identify electricity usage patterns and peaks – leading to the most effective strategy. Harmse says the renewable power project forms part of a broader sustainability strategy at Bentley Park, which includes environmental initiatives related to water, recycling and the reduced use of hydrocarbons in energy generation.
“This bold step into a renewable future puts us on a firm footing where customers can feel confident about our commitment to sustainability and our ability to deliver,” he says.