ABB Showcases Solar-Diesel Microgrid at its Johannesburg Facility

June 8, 2016
ABB continued to expand its footprint in Africa’s microgrid market today with a new solar-diesel microgrid, a showcase project at its 314,961 square-foot Longmeadow facility in Johannesburg.

ABB continued to expand its footprint in Africa’s microgrid market today with a new solar-diesel microgrid, showcased at its 314,961 square-foot Longmeadow business park in Johannesburg.

The installation is part of a larger push by ABB into South Africa, where a market for microgrids is forming because power demand is outpacing supply, leading to erratic electric service. ABB was one of seven major energy companies that joined forces last year to drive policy that encourages low-carbon microgrids to the country.

ABB is embarking on a “next level strategy” into growth markets like Africa where innovative technologies like microgrids can improve power reliability, according to Claudio Facchin, president of ABB’s Power Grids division

“This innovative microgrid solution helps address a real-world challenge by providing stable and cost-effective continuity of power supply while minimizing environmental impact,” he said.

The Johannesburg business park, where ABB operates a factory and has offices, is connected to a central grid, but electric service isn’t always reliable. So the facility has been using diesel generators for back-up power.

ABB integrated solar and microgrid control technology with the back-up generation to green the facility and increase its electric reliability. ABB expects the microgrid to keep the lights on at the facility during planned and unplanned grid outages.

The solar-diesel microgrid uses ABB’s PowerStore battery-based grid stabilizing system, designed to address frequency and voltage fluctuations. It also includes a ABB’s Microgrid Plus distributed control system to manage the supply of power and balance the fossil-fuel and renewable energy sources with loads in a coordinated manner.

The battery capacity is 1 MVA/380 kWh and the rooftop solar array 750 kW.

O&M will be handled by a cloud-based remote service system, in keeping with ABB’s Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP) approach.

The solar-diesel microgrid is modular and containerized, pre-designed for this type of application, according to ABB.

ABB noted that there are thousands of similar facilities in emerging economies that could benefit from microgrids. The microgrid industry is particularly focused on parts of Africa, Asia and South America where no electric grid exists or service is unreliable.

ABB is one of the  top companies for development of microgrid capacity worldwide, according to Navigant Research. It has more than 30 global installations serving remote communities, islanded grids, utility grid support and industrial campuses.

Track news about emerging solar-hybrid microgrids @MicrogridNews.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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