Published on June 12th, 2020 | by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai
June 12th, 2020 by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai
It has been exactly 10 years since the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Funny how time flies! I was fortunate to get to watch 7 matches at various arenas, including the match involving one of my favorite national teams, Spain. I remember that Spain vs Chile match like it was yesterday. A lot has changed in that time. One of the things I get excited about the most whenever go around Pretoria and Gauteng Province is how there are now a lot of charging stations at malls, car dealerships, and airports. The South African EV scene is shaping up quite nicely. We recently looked at the State of Electric Vehicles in South Africa. We are excited that the huge potential this market has will soon be realized due to several factors which include:
- A wider variety of EV models will soon be available in South Africa for consumers to choose from
- A growing public charging network
The charging infrastructure space in South Africa is growing quite nicely, which will definitely address most people’s range anxiety issues. We covered evCrowdRoute, a startup that is rolling out charging stations across South Africa, as well as GridCars. We were excited to have an opportunity to have a discussion with BLUEPLUG Electrical, one of South Africa’s largest EV charging infrastructure installation companies. We caught up with Peter Ras (PR), owner of BLUEPLUG.
CT: You are the preferred partner for BMW and Nissan. Tell us a bit more about those partnerships and how you won those, and how it is going.
PR: My journey in the EV space started with Nissan back in 2013 when they wanted to launch the Leaf. I was busy with a project in one of Nissan’s buildings at that time. I was asked to a meeting to discuss other work, EV chargers, which has led to this ever changing business for me. I went to Europe several times for training on various charger brands. BMW was the next big OEM that had contacted me with regards to installing chargers for them. Since then, 2014, I have assisted them from a technical perspective, supply of chargers and then the installation of these chargers publicly and private. We will have to adapt and accept that fossil fuel vehicles will not be available in the market for too long as oil is starting to dry up and with the whole global warming situation we will have to adapt to other transport measures. We supply and install chargers for BMW and Nissan. I have done site evaluations for Audi, but I have not installed any chargers as of yet for them. Hopefully we will do something with them when E-Tron is launched in South Africa.
CT: Do you own, operate, and maintain those chargers under an SLA, or do dealerships own and manage them?
PR: The chargers belong to the dealership. My focus is actually only to install and maintain the charger at the relevant sites. I rather focus on 1 aspect than 2 or 3. We need to allow other businesses to grow in this industry and we need to work together to ensure that the EV space is successful. It is important for me to leave a site where we installed a charger and be proud of the way we have completed the installation. It is like preparing food. Anybody can cook. It is all about the taste and how the food is presented to you. We are busy negotiating a service agreement with all the charger owners. The problem is that there is not a lot of vehicles on the road and thus leads to chargers not being used regularly. The owners then do not want to spend money on these chargers after the installation took place.
CT: Besides these car dealers, who are some of your other customers and where do people generally install chargers?
We have installed chargers at shopping malls, office parks, and estates. We have also installed at a wine farm in the Western Cape. We have installed chargers on a temporary basis for BMW at some of the big sporting events around the country as well. We have installed at Suncity for The Million Dollar Golf, we have installed chargers at The SA Open and the Johannesburg Open. The players and VIPs were escorted in electric vehicles at these sporting events. We have also installed temporary chargers at various functions held by BMW across the country especially when they launch a new model I3 or I8.
CT: How many charging stations have you installed for those brands at their dealerships, and also at homes of people who bought EVs?
PR: I have installed all the public infrastructure for BMW and Nissan. In 2018 I took over the house installations for BMW. I have installed nearly 200 chargers if not more in the public space and we have installed about 80 to 100 chargers at various customer houses around the country. BMW installed the most chargers up to date with a number of 40 dealerships across The Republic. They have also partnered with various other 3rd parties for installations. Nissan installed at 9 or 10 dealerships across Gauteng. Most of these installations happened in Gauteng and the Western Cape. I would say that these two provinces in South Africa are the leaders in adapting to the EV market the best.
CT: Do EV buyers buy the 7 kW chargers or do they just charge from the normal 3-pin socket? Overseas, about 80% of charging takes place at home overnight, etc., so is this the same trend you are seeing in SA?
PR: I see the same pattern here in South Africa in the way people charge. We partook in the first ever drive from Johannesburg to Durban and back to Johannesburg in 2017 with a charger mounted on to a generator at the back of my truck. The idea was to obtain information on how many chargers would be required for the trip should an EV owner want to travel Durban and back. The occasional charger (3-pin plug-in charger) is mostly used as people will have to purchase a home charger (7kW charger) additional. Public chargers will play a big role in the future when those public charger owners advertise the chargers to their advantage.
CT: Do most homes require any upgrades to the electrical supply in order to add a 7 kW “Load” or 11 kW?
PR: Normally they do not require any upgrades. I install a data recorder/logger at the sites where the spare capacity is unknown. We leave the recorder in for a week to obtain the required information and then either proceed with the installation or apply for an upgrade to the site. This is normally more prone to happen with public installations than house installations. People normally charge their vehicles at home when the grid is not under strain at night. You can also set your vehicle to charge at specific times.
CT: Which EV do the guys at BLUEPLUG drive, and how is the experience on EV driving in SA?
PR: The BMW i3. We have driven the BMW i3 several times around the country with either a launch or when we had to test a charger after it was installed. It is absolutely amazing to drive around with a vehicle that is environmentally friendly yet comfortable. It is a must-have for the modern household.
CT: Will you also add DC fast chargers on the major highways?
PR: We have not yet installed any charger on any of the highways. We are in negotiations with known role-players to start with installations on the highways. These installation will take place in strategically locations across the country. Nissan and BMW had an agreement for long where they installed chargers in the public domain. BMW has installed the most chargers to date across The Republic. BMW has also partnered with various other 3rd parties for installations across the country. I have also received many inquiries from companies investigating into having chargers installed at their premises or office blocks. Most of the installations that were completed by BLUEPLUG took place at either a dealership or at a customer’s house. If had to give a breakdown of the installations completed by BLUEPLUG, it would be 40% dealerships, 30% for home and public installations.
From this we can see that the South African EV charging infrastructure space is getting quite exciting. Several other big firms, like Shell, are looking to install charging stations on their existing retail network, as discussed here.
Images courtesy of BLUEPLUG Electrical.
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Duke Energy Florida Plans To Double Its Solar Power Capacity
Published on July 3rd, 2020 | by Steve Hanley
July 3rd, 2020 by Steve Hanley
You don’t have to hit the management team at Duke Energy over the head with a 2×4 to get them to wake up to the advantages of solar power, but it might help. Perhaps its executives have been spurred on by the massive investment by cross-state rival NextEra Energy, a division of Florida Power & Light, which plans to install 30 million solar panels between now and 2030. Or perhaps they have stopped drinking the fossil fuel Kool-Aid and noticed that solar power is simply cheaper than nuclear, coal, or natural gas.
Okay, the crossover point may not be here quite yet, but utility companies think in terms of decades and they put a premium on predictability. Natural gas is abundant and cheap right now, but there’s no guarantee it will be in 2027. The cost of electricity from a solar power plant that comes online today can be accurately calculated down to the tenth of a penny 20 years from now. That’s the kind of metric that appeals to decision makers.
Whatever the motivation might be, Duke Energy this week submitted a proposal to the Florida Public Service Commission requesting approval for a plan to build 750 megawatts of new solar capacity at a cost of $1 billion. A spokesperson for Duke Energy Florida tells the Tampa Bay Times, “This is an opportunity that provides customers a way to provide them solar access while actually lowering their bills over time.” The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Vote Solar, and Walmart helped to develop the plan.
Clean Energy Connection
The solar electricity will be made available through Duke Energy Florida’s Clean Energy Connection Program, “which is delivering on what our consumers desire — budget friendly clean energy options. It will be a quantifiable way for customers to cooperate reducing carbon emissions,” said Catherine Stempien, President of Duke Energy Florida, in a press statement. “We know that larger scale solar is the most affordable way to get the benefits of solar on our entire system as well as this program gives consumers, particularly those who might not have the capacity to set up solar in your home, an engaging option to roof panels.”
The Clean Connection program is designed to allow customers who cannot install rooftop solar — such as renters and condo dwellers — to obtain the benefits of clean solar electricity. Another features is the access to solar power is portable if a customer moves anywhere within the Duke Energy Florida service area.
“This is an opportunity that provides customers a way to provide them solar access while actually lowering their bills over time,” said Ana Gibbs, a spokesperson for the company. About 26 MW will be set aside for low income customers. To date, the city of St. Petersburg has signed up for 28.3 MW while 12 commercial and industrial customers have reserved 540 megawatts of capacity.
In essence, customers will pay $8.35 a month for a one kilowatt block of power. The company says if they remain customers for 7 years, they will earn rebates that will offset the cost of their participation in the program.
Solar In Florida
Solar power has a been a bone of contention in Florida for years, with utility companies waging an aggressive disinformation campaign against rooftop solar. It got so bad, the major utilities spent millions on a campaign for an amendment to the Florida constitution that would have outlawed individual rooftop solar systems. The attitude of the companies has always been, “It’s our electricity, dammit, and we will decide how it is generated and how much you will pay for it.”
Florida Power & Light has a similar community solar program that is more than double the size of the one Duke Energy Florida is proposing. FPL says more than 120,000 families and small businesses have expressed interest in participating in its SolarTogether program. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Vote Solar were also directly involved in promoting that community solar initiative.
Driving around Florida today, rooftop solar panels are conspicuous by their absence. The utility companies may be high on solar electricity for their own use but have been largely successful at limiting the number of solar panels on the rooftops of the Sunshine State. What a waste to squander all that prime territory for erecting solar panels. Attitudes in Florida are changing but not nearly fast enough.
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CleanTechnica’s First Virtual Trade Show! Top Tesla Aftermarket Gear!
Published on July 3rd, 2020 | by Andrea Bertoli
July 3rd, 2020 by Andrea Bertoli
In this first virtual trade show event, we’re hosting some of the coolest companies making the newest and most useful products for your S3XY car. This Virtual Trade Show will be focused on Tesla aftermarket accessories and products — all the gear you need to make your car the best. Whether you own a Tesla currently or are planning on buying one in the near future, you can check out what these great companies have to offer.
What’s a Virtual Trade Show?
We will host a free, live event via Zoom. Each participating company will have a short introduction and pitch, and then we will divide the meeting into dedicated booths (aka “Zoom breakout rooms”). Attendees can then drop into the different booths for any length of time to learn more about specific products, ask the manufacturers questions, or just have a chat with the founders.
This is a fun, climate-friendly way to attend a cool event, instead of flying across the country (too many emissions) and sharing space with too many people (#socialdistancing). You can still check out “booths” at this virtual event to learn more about the various brands and have a closer look at products.
Tesla Aftermarket Gear for Our 1st Event
We’re inviting some of our favorite Tesla aftermarket parts companies to join us for our first trade show since Tesla is apparently the most popular topic on here and since most EV buyers buy Teslas.
CleanTechnica readers (or anyone!) can attend this event for free, and can enter to win a $100 gift card from the company of their choice. We’ll announce the participating companies as soon as we have the full list!
The Virtual Trade Show will be hosted by our CEO, Zachary Shahan, and many on the CleanTechnica team will be working behind the scenes to help it run smoothly. If you have any questions, please contact Andrea (me).
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City Of Sydney Goes 100% Renewable
Published on July 3rd, 2020 | by Steve Hanley
July 3rd, 2020 by Steve Hanley
As of July 1, Sydney, the largest city in Australia, will power all its operations — street lights, sports facilities, buildings, and the historic Town Hall — with 100% renewable energy from local sources. The clean energy transition, made possible by a power purchase agreement put together by Flow Power, is worth $60 million and is projected to save the city more than a half million dollars on its electricity bills every year for the next 10 years.
Sydney began working to reduce its carbon footprint in 2016 when it adopted a plan to cut its carbon emissions 70% by 2030. The city calculates this latest power purchase agreement will help it reach that goal 6 years earlier than planned. It also worked hard to make sure the sources of the renewable energy it uses were all local to the area, providing economic development and job growth opportunities for people living in surrounding communities.
Two Solar Farms & One Wind Farm
The PPA will use electricity from three sources — 2 solar farms and one wind farm. Three-quarters of it will be provided by the Sapphire Wind Farm near Inverell. It is the largest wind farm in New South Wales with a capacity of 270 MW generated by 75 turbines that stand 200 meters high. The reason wind is such a big part of the package is that the majority of the electricity the city consumes goes to power its 23,000 street lights. Sydney has converted about 6,000 of them to LEDs recently and has plans to convert another 12,000 soon.
“The process of buying energy from a generator when its output matches your demand is known as load matching. For example, if you use most of your electricity at night, like we do, you choose to buy more wind power than solar power. It’s not just a good idea financially — if every large energy buyer practiced load matching, our electricity grid would become much more stable and sustainable,” the city says.
Even though the wind blows at night when the city uses most of its electricity, Sydney is also sourcing renewable energy from two solar farms, one of which is a 3 MW community solar installation. The Shoalhaven project is being developed by Flow Power in partnership with local community group Repower Shoalhaven, a not for profit volunteer community enterprise that develops community solar projects.
“When we decided to pursue a 100% renewable electricity deal, we knew we wanted to help grow the renewables sector in NSW as well. We didn’t want to simply buy renewable electricity that was already being produced. So we worked with our broker to make sure we were supporting new projects,” the city says.
“We ended up partnering with a community energy group that needed help to get a project off the ground. Repower Shoalhaven could not have become operational without our investment. By partnering with this project, we’re stimulating the market and helping the renewables sector grow.”
Sydney Goes Solar
Sydney has also installed solar panels on a number of municipal buildings. “By mid-2021, we expect to have more than 7,800 solar panels on the roofs of our properties. As the mix of storage and generation on our electricity grid changes, solar solutions like this could provide reliability and resilience to our electricity network and potentially prevent blackouts,” says Mayor Clover Moore. The city has installed a 500 kWh battery storage facility supplied by Tesla to help use that solar power as efficiently as possible.
While not nearly as large as the Tesla battery located at the Hornsdale facility in South Australia, together with all the solar panels the city is installing it helped prevent the construction of a natural gas peaker plant in the area which would have spewed carbon emissions into the air for all of its 40+ year service life.
Looking To The Future
In its online announcement about the new power purchase agreement, the city says,
“Our new deal kicks in from 1 July but we’re already looking to the future and how our electricity use might evolve in the years ahead. As more Australian individuals and organisations generate power themselves using rooftop solar, the opportunities will increase for a 2-way system that involves energy users both buying and selling electricity. Many households in the City of Sydney area already sell their excess solar power back to the grid.
“There’s also the practice known as demand response. This is when consumers choose not to use electricity during times of high demand in exchange for lower rates or some other form of reward. The NSW electricity market is moving towards a demand response model and we’re going to be at the forefront of it. That’s why we’ve included provisions for demand response in our current power purchase agreement.”
The Australian national government may refuse to address climate change and stick its head in the sand when it comes to renewables — despite evidence that investment in renewables creates three times as many jobs as investments in fossil fuels — but local communities and state governments are defying the elected idiots and charting their own course to a sustainable future.
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