Midrand, South Africa: The one-of-a-kind energy system
The energy landscape is changing fundamentally. The ongoing concerns about climate change, the new possibilities with digital solutions and the economic efficiency of renewables are shaping the energy transition.
The involved players like municipalities, local communities or metropolitan cities are adapting their strategies, but also new partners such as private businesses rethink their approaches. Globally operating companies are developing initiatives which focus on reducing the energy consumption, driving down energy costs and integrating wind & solar power in the overall mix. Best example: Siemens.
The company has its goal on turning its operations carbon neutral by 2030, also to set a clear signal even before the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One key measure to achieve this ambitious goal is to invest in Distributed Energy Systems (DES) and to implement these at their own facilities and office complexes all around the world. The concept of a DES encompassing and managing a diverse array of power generation, storage, energy monitoring, and control solutions in a single semi-independent energy system is a promising solution for finding answers to new challenges companies are confronted with all over the world.
Setting an example in Johannesburg
At the Siemens’ headquarters in Midrand, Johannesburg, the DES combines these climate protection goals, which is also a great example for how to realize new energy systems for the whole continent. This one-of-a-kind solution consists of 1 MW PV-solar plant on the campus’ buildings as well as parking area and is integrated with the Diesel Generator and a 140 KWh SieStorage energy storage system via the Siemens MicroGrid Controller. Consequently, the facility is not just able to charge its eCar fleet but to also manage energy production and consumption.
Sebastian Granow, head of the location management unit in South Africa, points out the benefits of the solution: “Compared to previous years, the DES here in Midrand has reduced the energy demand from the national grid by approximately 40% and more savings are expected from a further optimization of the plant.” The young German has been accompanying real estate projects at Siemens for more than 13 years, working at several locations and facilities all around the world. Since March 2016, he has been responsible for the Siemens Real Estate portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa and in this function is also leading the Midrand DES project. Granow is proud of the successes his team has already achieved in Johannesburg, but is nevertheless looking forward to tackle the next milestones in this project: “We had a great start! Now we will further optimize the overall energy consumption of this facility and fully unlock the potential of our digital ecosystem.”
The DES solution in Midrand is embedded within Siemens Mindsphere to monitor, react and easily adjust to different conditions but also stabilize the campus grid in case of an outage. In general, the system generates a powerful data reporting and forecasts the energy consumption which allows for the optimized use of the whole DES solution. The next step will be to connect the DES system with the Siemens Desigo CC Building Management System and the Siemens Smart Metering network within the buildings via the cloud based asset management and energy monitoring system, MONET, to further optimize energy consumption and building operations.
Granow and his team are certainly looking forward to realize this step: “There is still a lot to do and optimize, but the multinational team from South Africa, Germany and Portugal already did a terrific job in the past and I am confident that they will continue to do so in the future. My personal goal is to further optimize our own operations here in Johannesburg to make a difference and we are aware that our pilot project is also interesting for other businesses here in Africa as well as for companies all over the world.”
Compared to previous years, the DES here in Midrand has reduced the energy demand from the national grid by approximately 40%.Sebastian Granow, head of the location management unit in South Africa
Solutions in Africa for Africa
For customers, the Midrand project in Johannesburg provides a live and visualized human machine interface (HMI) showcase. The project could represent a prototype which shows what the future of corporate energy systems might look like. Furthermore, it is a step into the right direction to unlock the full potential of DES in Africa as a proven solution for its energy transition.
Stephan May, CEO of Medium Voltage and Systems at Siemens is well aware of the huge potential these solutions have for the whole continent: “In Africa, the overall energy demand is growing and businesses as well as municipalities can improve their energy footprint by adapting the solutions we realized in Midrand and start implementing Distributed Energy Systems.”
Africa with its vast opportunities for renewable energy production and its challenges in the national energy grids is on the edge of a fundamental change. It is for this reason that organizations and utilities are working together to build resilient and flexible power systems. Operating either as part of traditional grid or independently, these systems are revolutionizing the way we manage our energy resources.
Projects around the globe
Zooming out on a global scale, there are several other opportunities and projects combining renewable energy with a storage solution and an intelligent microgrid. “Businesses or communities all over the world are thinking about their energy strategies and that’s a huge opportunity. We want to help these customers to find solutions and meet their challenges. At Midrand, we show our reliable, proven and sustainable portfolio in action,” May adds.
Distributed energy systems are self-managed and stable, so they don’t need to be regulated by the overall grid operation. Thus, they help to reduce complexity and increase efficiency. It is an adaptable solution and, therefore, can manage the grid for a local municipality or community in Germany, provide energy to offices in South Africa and power a facility in China.
Local solutions are key if you want to achieve global goals. With projects like the Midrand Microgrid, Siemens shows how to combine both and how to reduce its ecological footprint step by step, with each project helping to achieve the ambitious goal of becoming carbon free in the year 2030.
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