Renewable-energy solutions provider New Southern Energy reports that it has developed a large-scale hot-water system that is ideal for mine-site accommodation and it plans to aggressively target the mining industry this year, with two projects tendered for in the Western Cape and the North West. This system has been developed using existing, well-tested technologies.
The Industrial Solar Ringmain system is ideal for mine-site accommodation, owing to the high density of living areas at mine sites and the high volume of hot water used. Panels can be installed on the roof of existing accommodation, which means that the system can easily be retrofitted onto existing infrastructure, New Southern Energy director Deepak John states.
He notes that, owing to the poor quality of solar systems installed at some mines, the mining industry has been hesitant to use this technology.
However, John points out that this trend is slowly changing as the industry has become aware of the difference between New Southern Energy’s Industrial Solar Ringmain system and alternative systems.
“Our system makes the use of traditional electric geysers unnecessary, as it uses large centralised thermal storage tanks, vacuum-tube solar panels, heat pumps and piping to provide hot water,” he explains.
Evacuated tube solar panels are used to heat the water using the sun’s energy, while heat pumps are used for water heating on cloudy or rainy days. The heated water is stored in large thermal tanks and pumped to each specific area, such as ablution facilities, toilets and kitchens, in a continuous, well-insulated ringmain.
Traditional electric geyser units are energy intensive and have to be replaced frequently. They are also at risk of bursting and have poor thermal retention. John points out that the build-up of sediment on a geyser’s element, which often happens when water quality is poor, further reduces a geyser unit’s performance and life span.
He says that the technology, which the company can presently install in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania, can result in considerable hot-water energy savings for mines’ accommodation areas. “The Industrial Solar Ringmain system offers reduced energy consumption, simpler maintenance, improved thermal storage and less water wastage than traditional geysers.”
The Industrial Solar Ringmain system was assembled in Cape Town in 2010 and New Southern Energy’s installation team installed the first system in early 2011 at a hospital in Cape Town. This system has also been installed in accommodation apartment buildings and at staff accommodation for several businesses in remote areas.
“This technology has practical application in many industries, especially where there is a large accommodation concentration. It is robust and has been well tested in a variety of environments. We plan to get this system accepted as standard for all accommodation buildings,” states John.
Further, New Southern Energy states that it installs metering and monitoring equipment at mine sites, following the installation of the Industrial Solar Ringmain system, to accurately measure energy savings achieved and further improve the system’s performance.
“Monitoring the system’s performance warns us should something break, which provides us and the client with forewarning and information on conducting repairs, maintenance or other tweaks. This information provided by the metering and monitoring equipment is analysed and summarised into an easy-to-interpret, customised online dashboard,” John explains.
Financial indicators, such as exact savings, payback periods and return on investment are also shown. “Actual savings recorded on the Industrial Solar Ringmain systems have been more than 80% and payback takes less than 24 months,” he concludes.