Merry Pebbles: Off the Eskom Grid

Michele du Plessis

Merry Pebbles Resort is the first business of its kind in Sabie to take that extra step to get off the Eskom power grid, provided by Thaba Chweu municipality (TCM). The administration building, restaurant, liquor store and laundry at Merry Pebbles now runs on a Photovoltaic system.

Walter Comley, owner and manager said that the escalating power cost resulted in the decision to privatise their energy supply. “We did this to cut the escalating power costs. We have planned this project for the last two years and now we have switched to a Photovoltaic system with battery backup and solar water heating,” Walter explained.

Solar panels and deep cycle batteries will provide your home or business with enough power during the day.  Battery centres provide power in a box and it is clean, noiseless boxes which provide enough power for your needs. While solar panels are decreasing in cost every year, it is the cost of energy storage that still represents a major investment to start powering up your home or business. “We only had to redo some of the electrical wiring for the installation of this system. The initial cost involved was R1 million for the water heating system and for the shop and restaurant also R1 million. We shall convert the rest of the resort at a later stage. We will repay the cost of this project in 3 years’ saving on power,” Walter said.

When looking at pricing for electricity, one can see that somewhere, overpricing of tariffs play the biggest role in conversion. With solar systems in place, you will only pay for the start-up costs and maintenance.  Installation of an investment towards securing electrical independence.  An added benefit to go off the grid, it that there is no dependability on the supplier, thus no blackouts or load shedding.   “Installing this system will be cost saving over the long term,” Walter said when asked if he would advise business owner to convert to off-grid alternative energy sources.

Costs in South Africa will only be on the rise in the foreseeable future, a decrease in pricing is a very unlikely scenario. An alternative, renewable energy sources creates independence from Eskom and according to Walter, it is very easy to maintain. One last piece of advice from Walter is noteworthy: “Don’t buy the Ferrari, go for the solar!”

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