Astron Ruhamah lights the way with SolarSaver’s hybrid solar installation

Ross MacGregor of Astron Ruhamah in Roodepoort, South Africa has found a solution to his business’s power issues through renting a hybrid solar system. Supplied and managed by SolarSaver, the new installation combines grid-tied solar power with battery storage, allowing the fuel station to operate around the clock, even during power outages and load shedding. 

Fuel stations, crucial nodes in the country’s transportation and logistics infrastructure, have been significantly affected by the unstable power situation in South Africa. Without a constant power supply, the provision of petrol and diesel can be disrupted, causing substantial inconvenience for motorists and hampering economic activities. Convenience stores at the station might not be able to operate their cash registers or refrigeration units, leading to further losses. Also, without power, lighting at the station will be affected, which could pose safety risks, particularly at night. The installation of renewable energy sources like solar power at these stations is an important development.

MacGregor discovered SolarSaver through a media article and was intrigued by the idea of renting solar. “For a franchisee, it’s a lot easier to put it up and then pass on the contract,” he explains. “I view SolarSaver as our second power supplier.” Originally scheduled for a grid-tied installation with an integrated generator, MacGregor quickly realised the need for batteries when South Africa went into Stage 6 load shedding. SolarSaver moved to a hybrid solution and managed to tackle the challenges.  

The leading provider of solar energy solutions assists over 500 businesses to harness the power of the sun, both through grid-tied rent-to-own solar solutions that reduce power costs, as well as hybrid battery installations that also provide an essential backup for when the grid is down. Their hybrid installations offer the best of both worlds: solar panels that remain connected to the grid and a backup battery system to store excess power. 

Lance Green from SolarSaver explains, “Our hybrid solar systems empower businesses to choose where the energy they generate is directed. During the day, the system uses solar panels to produce energy. Any excess power is stored in the battery system, which can be used during the night or during power outages.”

This is particularly beneficial in areas affected by loadshedding, ensuring that businesses can continue operating without interruption. The Astron Ruhamah fuel station, for example, is benefiting from a hybrid battery installation with 64.6kWp solar photovoltaic (PV), 48kW battery inverters and 60kWh of battery capacity. 

MacGregor says that the hybrid solar system from SolarSaver has had a massive impact on his business. “For a petrol station that runs a lot of HVAC equipment, refrigeration, ATMs, retail, consistent power is essential. From a business continuity perspective, it’s been wonderful,” says MacGregor. “Some days we have nine hours of load shedding in two blocks, and we hardly even know about it. Now we can go 4.5 hours with no PV, and our battery can run the site with all critical essentials.”

He further highlights the cost benefits. “The fixed cost of the rental of the system that will escalate at a contractual amount that is far below the Eskom increases. Within a very short space of time, it’s certainly cheaper per kilowatt.  We were drawing 28,000 kWh from City Power, and this has gone down to 20,000 kWh. We’ve reduced our draw from City Power by 29% and SolarSaver does the rest at a lower rate. City Power increases at 18% annually, whereas we have a 6% increase on the portion through SolarSaver.”

MacGregor explains that running an expensive, noisy generator continuously during peak trading times is simply not feasible for fuel stations.  “I’ve heard of generator bills of R50,000 a month. There is no room in our regulated margins for this. Previously, we had to switch off when there was loadshedding at night. Staff locked the doors and crickets chirped in the background as our 24/7 operation lost out on customers.”

Now, the hybrid solution has become a real differentiator. “We’re the best in our area, because we’re on! At night, we’re a spaceship shining in a dark area. It helps us stand out in a difficult market and our staff feel much safer.” 

MacGregor advises other businesses considering a similar transition to hybrid solar systems to rent on the SolarSaver model. “Renting gives you flexibility and peace-of-mind. I know I can trust the supplier and they remain invested, so any challenges are quickly addressed.  The equipment is SolarSaver’s to maintain and replace. Here in the Highveld, we have 300 days of sunshine a year and the sun powers my business. It simply doesn’t make sense as to why you wouldn’t do it.”

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