Turning a LEAF on load shedding

Located in Soshanguve, Filadelfia special needs secondary school is unique in a couple of ways…

First, it’s the only school in South Africa to cater for three specific disabilities, namely for those who are deaf, blind and physically disabled. Second, through an innovative back-up system, it is immune to the load-shedding scourge that has engulfed the country.

Founded in 1985, Filadelfia Secondary School first opened its doors to 130 pupils. Now, in 2019, it boasts 470 learners and a boarding establishment. It proudly offers a flexible academic curriculum complemented by a comprehensive sport programme that includes wheelchair tennis, baseball, basketball, rugby and chess.

Filadelfia is heavily dependent on reliable energy. As the pupils are disabled, load shedding has a greater impact on this school compared to those catering for able-bodied mainstream learners.

For example, sign language cannot be conducted without adequate lighting, and during power outages – other than the obvious inability to use computers – simple daily operations such as cooking and washing become a challenge. It is also difficult for some students to manoeuvre around the school when there are no lights.

With several energy outages a month, lasting from a few hours to sometimes the entire day, the school was reliant on gas and generators to maintain a constant power supply, creating a safety risk for the learners, as well as the very real hazard of the school burning down. The welfare and safety of the students and staff therefore became a concern to the community.

The energy system affords wheelchair users and other disabled pupils the ability to learn and move around during power outages.

This is where Nissan South Africa stepped in to assist, supplying the school with a functioning back-up solution during power outages and periods of load shedding.

Nissan’s Wonga Mesatywa, director of corporate affairs, stresses that in line with its global sustainability strategy, the company is committed to being part of the solution that improves the lives of people in the areas in which it operates, with a focus on “zero emissions”.

The innovative and flexible solution offered by Nissan Energy combines second-life batteries from the Nissan LEAF electric car with solar panels to generate sustainable power. In total, the system generates 54 kW comprising 15
XStorage Home units, with each unit generating 3,6 kW. Each unit has 4,2 kWh storage which equates to a total of 63 kWh of battery capacity.

The system supplies power for lighting the hostels, library, administration, school hall and the computer centre as well as powering the computers.

Says Nissan facilities manager, Francois Greeff: “The system is configured not to run at maximum load, to ensure the lights stay on for at least the duration of typical load shedding – at least 2,5 hours. However, the calculations show it provides close to 3,2 hours of light for the hostels while the library and computer centre have power for
1,5 hours.”

TurnKey Energy provided the 330-W solar panels, as well as labour and materials for installation as part of its social responsibility initiatives.

The XStorage units have an expected life of seven years if they are used every day. “The less load shedding we have, the longer they will last,” Greeff adds. The 90 panels have a 25-year life and the XStorage units come with a five-year warranty, after which they will be sent back to Europe for recycling.

The launch of the school system coincided with global Earth Hour, the environmental movement that unifies people to act on climate change through symbolically switching off their lights.

This mission aligns closely to Nissan’s focus on creating a “cleaner, safer, fairer” world, and the company is addressing the issue of energy resilience through a variety of pilot projects around the world.

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