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Advice needed: City of Cape Town’s requirements for my 3-phase PV system.


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Greetings,
 
I need some advice on what I need to do to satisfy the City of Cape Town’s requirements for my PV system. Two years ago I had a 4kw PV structure installed. As I have 3-phase power in my house, a SMA Tripower inverter was used. Recently I received a notice from the City indicating that I must change my meter to a pre-paid unit. Everyone in my neighbourhood got one of these notices. As my current meter is one of the old rotating disk types (with three disks), I am trying to find out what I need to do to meet the City’s requirements.
 
I have seen some of the previous posts here, however they don’t seem to address 3-phase systems. I would be very grateful for any advice.
 
Big Foot.
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Weeellll... you're supposed to apply for SSEG before connecting anything to the grid. So technically you'd have to decommission the system, apply for SSEG, get it approved, have the system signed off by a registered engineer. I don't think the process is much different for three phase, I think the size of the system is larger and there are possibly requirements about balancing your feed-in on the phases (which most GTIs does anyway).

On a practical level, if you just want to avoid tripping the prepaid meter, you need a grid limiter of some kind. I don't know if the older SMAs support such a thing or what would be required. You need to ask someone who knows SMA well.

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Thank you for the reply Plonkster.

This is a bit frustrating. I have contacted four different solar power consultants / electricians and all have agreed to come look at my system and do a paid consulting to resolve this problem.

None actually showed up for their appointments. Not one.

After re-calling them a couple of times each, it is evident that they aren't interested in taking the job but will not tell me that. I guess they are just cherry-picking which jobs they want. Does anyone know a professional solar consultant in the Cape Town area which would be interested in taking on this job? Key word there is 'professional'.

Thank you.

 

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12 minutes ago, Big Foot said:

None actually showed up for their appointments. Not one.

Same experience across the board at the moment. I think it's just a symptom of our economy. Skills level is going down, people are emigrating, the high-income people reproduce below replacement rates, so the ones that remain that are capable of doing the work has enough work to keep them going. I've been there myself. Twice in the last decade we went through times where you send out quotes and tenders but no new incoming work. That cultivates a habit of never saying no to a job and simply extending your lead time (the time to actually get to that job). This habit is a bad one to have when there is lots of work... it means you say yes to people you cannot actually fit into your schedule. In an ideal world you'd communicate with the customer... so I'm not making excuses, just saying I have the same experience and it might just be how it is these days.

Try Werner Pagels (in Somerset West) or perhaps our friend @Mike, he sometimes works city side though he is in Yzerfontein.

Werner is an SMA/SolarEdge guy. I doubt either of them will work for free, but I know Werner has the resources to get a system signed of for SSEG.

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Thanks again Plonkster, I will contact Mr. Pagels and Mike. I am certainly happy to pay for this work and indicated such to the Fab Four. I am now wondering if many contractors in the solar industry here are a bit confused about the current laws covering this issue. They are confident in the installation of the equipment but leave the legal registration aspects to the customer.

As soon as I get this whole thing sussed out, I will update the board with what I found out.

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Greetings, as stated above by plonkster, you will have to have your system decommissioned firstly and then do the application. I am just to far away to do it, i am sorry..It is 4 hours round trip just traveling, this i know as i went to help an old customer last week add 6 panels which took an hour......

You can download the needed docs from COCT website, or just ask if Werner would do all on your behalf...

 

sorry once again.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mike said:

You can download the needed docs from COCT website, or just ask if Werner would do all on your behalf...

I believe he does it on your behalf. And he has an agreement with an engineer that can do the required sign-off. I believe this is what some installers call a "documentation fee", and it's usually not a 3-figure number, it is somewhat more.

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45 minutes ago, shanghailoz said:

FYI - you don't *have* to change to a pre-paid unit, you can keep your current meter.

True. 

What we found was that we where paying R2.25 ex VAT per kw on post-paid versus R1.71 ex VAT now on prepaid.

I am rather peeved.

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1 hour ago, shanghailoz said:

FYI - you don't *have* to change to a pre-paid unit, you can keep your current meter.

Yes, apparently they try to push you into replacing even your prepaid meter with a BMI unit that costs around 8.5k. That's the info I've got, but of course you cannot google for it because BMI is also body mass index.

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They're trying to do that in Observatory, Cape Town also, I've told them to go jump currently;  Well, actually, I generally ignore them, and don't let a meter reader onto the property at the best of times.

 

All readings go via photo / email, or at least did, I haven't been there in > year due to health reasons.  Note to self, don't break your hip skateboarding :P 

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I should add a proper answer for Big Foot though.

 

In order to legally feedback, you will need to register for SSEG with Cape Town.  I also have a 3 phase system solar, although mine doesn't feedback to grid.

Last I checked, 3 phase is limited to a 3kw system for SSEG - may have changed since I last looked in 2013 though, so ask.

You will need an engineer signoff for your system (min 20k or so), plus do the paperwork.   Your inverter will also need to be listed in their approved inverter list - if it has NRS certification (NRS 097-2-1) , it will typically be listed.

I have an example of that paperwork on goingsolar.co.za, newer lists of approved hardware should be findable on the much improved CoCT website.

If not, suggest email Ryno or Brian @ CoCT and ask for the list they can be contacted on - 

Ryno.vanderRiet at capetown.gov.za
Brian.Jones at capetown.gov.za

 

Ryno is generally helpful.

An overview of stuff here - http://goingsolar.co.za/solar-grid-tie-legalities-in-cape-town-south-africa/

 

Feel free to ask me more questions, I have looked at the process, although decided against it, as it wasn't economical for me.  I basically said nah, and went offgrid.

 

 

 

Edited by shanghailoz
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2 hours ago, shanghailoz said:

Last I checked, 3 phase is limited to a 3kw system for SSEG - may have changed since I last looked in 2013 though, so ask.

It's 3.5KW for single phase, so I'd expect it to be around 10 for 3-phase. You are allowed to fit a larger array or a larger inverter as long as the inverter is configured to not feed in more than the legal limit.

2 hours ago, shanghailoz said:

Your inverter will also need to be listed in their approved inverter list

It helps if it is on the list, and many installers won't touch it if it isn't on the list, but the list is more of a guideline, a resource that helps you select something that will sign off. The Victron inverters for example (the older ones, before the MultiGrid came along) has NRS097-2-1 compliance if they are paired with a Ziehl anti-islanding device, and the Ziehl is on the list on its own too, so you generally can get it signed off, though it takes more work: It is not on the list so some won't touch it.

I'm also told that it isn't really policed, so there are people who fit one unit and later upgrade to something else. Of course I'm supposed to tell you not to do that.

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22 hours ago, plonkster said:

It's 3.5KW for single phase, so I'd expect it to be around 10 for 3-phase. You are allowed to fit a larger array or a larger inverter as long as the inverter is configured to not feed in more than the legal limit.

It helps if it is on the list, and many installers won't touch it if it isn't on the list, but the list is more of a guideline, a resource that helps you select something that will sign off. The Victron inverters for example (the older ones, before the MultiGrid came along) has NRS097-2-1 compliance if they are paired with a Ziehl anti-islanding device, and the Ziehl is on the list on its own too, so you generally can get it signed off, though it takes more work: It is not on the list so some won't touch it.

I'm also told that it isn't really policed, so there are people who fit one unit and later upgrade to something else. Of course I'm supposed to tell you not to do that.

At the time I checked, they hadn't approved any home 3 phase system, only business.  As it seemed onerous, pointless and more importantly financially stupid, I didn't bother.

Offgrid ftw :)

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1 hour ago, shanghailoz said:

Offgrid ftw :)

Just to be certain, are you off-grid (as in completely disconnected), or do you have the grid connected so you can transfer to it/charge from it, or are you grid connected but with a limiter to prevent feedback? Because only the first one qualifies as "off grid". The other two are deemed to be embedded generators. It's not off-grid unless it's completely isolated :-)

@The Terrible Triplett runs a completely off-grid system for a small portion of his home.

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16 minutes ago, plonkster said:

... off-grid system for a small portion of his home.

Indeed, AND nogal in Cpt, with our delicious winter rains lately.

All office and kids computers, routers, TV's, QNAP's etc. 

In winter I obviously take stuff off, summer I add them back like fridge and freezers.

Lekker cheap system which has been saving me a  packet to boot. Keeps 6 people on +-R600 per month, winter maybe +-R800 ... if there is rain or lots of clouds.

Biggest saving came when I switched all off when we all are in bed, as evening use is the expensive one.

 

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43 minutes ago, The Terrible Triplett said:

Biggest saving came when I switched all off when we all are in bed, as evening use is the expensive one.

 But once we go to bed the load also drops significantly in any case, such that it doesn't matter too much anyway. But this is something that I'm thinking of myself, now that home automation is becoming really affordable. More than a decade ago I spoke to someone who had a house somewhere in the Northern suburbs, also fully automated. Glass cover on the swimming pool that sends a message to his mobile if the kids open it, that sort of thing. His house had a "silent mode", one push of a button and it turns off all the unnecessary stuff. But back then you ran either X10 or your own stuff, and neither of those were easy or cheap. These days it should be a whole lot easier to put the house to bed at night.

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33 minutes ago, plonkster said:

These days it should be a whole lot easier to put the house to bed at night.

Also found that the youngsters, whom are both working, are now forced to switch off earlier, therefor they are perkier in the mornings. Priceless ... 

Started at 600-700watt per hour each night. Daytime we are on +-60w per hour. 
Got it down to +-300w at night ... basta this I thought, with all in bed!?
It is now at +-80-100w. Outside lights, alarm, fridge / freezers etc, the stuff that is better left on for my "safety" with SWAMBO.

Can bring it down in summer to about 60w at night, when fridge and freezers and lights on solar too.
Being off-grid, need to watch the SOC carefully. One day the BMV relay will auto switch based on panel watts :-) to get another 2-3 hours per day out of the panels.

Geyser has used Eskom maybe 60 hours in the last year. Whatever! feeling for that usage.

Peaks when we use the kitchen on "full power" for +-30-50 minutes a day ... bleh.

To spend one more sent on this "system" ... naaa. It works.

 

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Thank you all for the good input. I am on the learning curve but at my age it is slippery. By the way, my inverter is an SMA Sunny Tripower 5000TL.

As a slight update, I am waiting for a solar consultant in my area to send a quote. Three others made appointments this week and didn't pitch. It seems that in the world of solar consultants, two words will separate the men from the boys: 'three phase'. Hopefully I will have new information to add soon. Thanks again and enjoy your weekend.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2018/06/23 at 2:54 AM, plonkster said:

Just to be certain, are you off-grid (as in completely disconnected), or do you have the grid connected so you can transfer to it/charge from it, or are you grid connected but with a limiter to prevent feedback? Because only the first one qualifies as "off grid". The other two are deemed to be embedded generators. It's not off-grid unless it's completely isolated :-)

@The Terrible Triplett runs a completely off-grid system for a small portion of his home.

100% offgrid.

I don't even have an incoming Eskom / CoCT line.

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