Solar Grid Tie Legalities in Cape Town, South Africa

Requirements, and other notes for SSEG legal Solar Installs (updated May 2015)

Important
NERSA rules currently put the onus on municipalities to self register generators < 100MW. Note that each municipality has different bylaws that may affect your install. With regards to Cape Town - All solar installations that are connected to the grid in Cape Town require an SSEG certification
(regardless of whether you intend to apply for SSEG rates or not).

This means that even if you do not intend to “feed back” to the grid (i.e. apply for SSEG tariff rates), you still require SSEG certification in Cape Town.

SSEG certification requires that ANY install that is connected to the grid in Cape Town must be certified by an Electrical Engineer as conforming to requirements (SANS 10142), and labelled appropriately.

All inverters used must also be tested as compliant with NRS-097-2-1 by a standards institute and provably certified as such.

I recommend that people only purchase a unit that already has the appropriate certification, as inverters that are not certified are not legally allowed to be connected to the grid.

This is not countrywide though – some municipalities allow G59 certification in addition to NRS-097-2-1.

An updated list of some NRS-097-2-1 certified inverters is available here on the Cape Town website –
http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/electricity/Application%20Forms/Approved-Photovoltaic-%28PV%29-inverter-ito-NRS-097-2-1-2010-2015-04-21.pdf

Building Regulations (Cape Town)
a. All PV roof top installations: No building plans are required to be submitted provided the panel(s) in its installed position does not project more than 1,5 metres, measured perpendicularly, above the roof and/or not more than 600mm above the highest point of the roof.

Full building plans, including an engineer’s endorsement, are required if the panel(s) in its installed position projects by more than 1,5 metres,measured perpendicularly, above the roof and/or more than 600mm above the highest point of the roof.
Note that a relaxation in terms of the Zoning Scheme Regulations is also required.

b. PV Installations on the ground: No building plans are required to be submitted provided the panel(s) in its installed position does not project more than 2.1 metres above the natural/finished ground level. Full building plans are required where any part of the installation projects more than 2.1 metres above the ground level.


Other thoughts –
Panels should not cause additional requirements to roofing for most truss framed houses.
We had an engineer look over ours and he said our own roof (a 1900’s victorian) was way over engineered and could take a lot more weight than we’d be subjecting it to.

Don’t forget panels are 25kg odd, and spread over 2x1M, so not really of consequence in a PV install.

Solar hot water heating systems on the other hand need some precautions, as those are hundreds of KG in a similar space…

If you’re concerned, get an engineer to sign off on things.

Electrical Compliance reqs
Electrical installation Certificate of Compliance (mostly SANS 10142 needs to be followed)
SSEG electrical network drawing.
Inverter conforms to NRS 097-2-1

House Insurance
Insurance will probably want to see an SSEG certificate for wiring purposes (in case it say burns down the house), or at the least an electrical compliance certificate.

Panels will need to be separately insured on a policy.

You’d need to ask your provider about acts of god – like things blown off the roof, I’d imagine that this differs from provider to provider.

I can’t find anything regarding mounting requirements and wind, so in lieu of SANS requirements or other requirements, I’d again suggest asking your insurance company what their requirements are.

It may require you to have an engineer sign off on the install, or they may require photo’s / test certificates for the mounting used.

For my own peace of mind, I go onto my roof and check my own mountings every few months.

Hail Damage
Panels should be certified to at least IEC 61215/61646 / UL17039
IEC 61215 impact testing is for 39.5 m/sec from a 203 gram ice ball.
The solar module must perform at a maximum of 5% degradation with no visible damage.

This may be inadequate in some area’s.

Some testing info for hail here – http://www.rci-online.org/interface/2012-CTS-koontz.pdf

Do note that other municipalities are free to enact local bylaws which may change requirements

Cape Towns requirement / SSEG application form here – https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/electricity/Application%20Forms/Application-for-connection-of-embedded-generation-(23-Jan-2015).pdf

Suggest read, and digest, as it also goes over requirements.

Specifications:

SANS10142 amendments 8 (most recent) – http://www.goingsolar.co.za/uploads/SANS10142-1Amdt8.pdf
NRS97-02-1 – http://www.goingsolar.co.za/uploads/NRS%20097-2-1.pdf

Further reading:
http://www.ee.co.za/article/connecting-pv-system-grid-earth.html

——
Older notes;

South Africa has one sole electricity supplier – Eskom, and each municipality applies its own rules and fee’s on top of Eskom’s where possible.  While other countries allow users to feed back power into the grid, and get paid for it, South Africa hasn’t quite reached that point, and Eskom and Municipalities are a little loath to change this, as its not in their best interests.  There are a few pilot schemes though, and its not impossible to setup, despite the amount of bureaucracy in the way!

As I’m in Cape Town, I’ll be posting information about Grid Tie legalities for users under the Cape Town municipality.

I’ve already been in contact with the relevant departments, and have a few answers on whats possible, and whats not.

This was the general reply I had regarding tying a system to the grid:

Following is the City’s current position regarding grid connection of small scale renewable electricity generation.

The City is unable to accommodate reverse power flow at the present. It is working  across numerous fronts (technical standards, meter solutions,  back end business (billing) processes, legal/legislative issues etc etc ) to be able to accommodate full reverse power flow in the future. Presently the plan is to compensate the generator one “one for one” offset basis per kWh consumed. This may change, but the City will not be able to refund the generator more than the tariff rate at which the consumer purchases electricity from Eskom.

Installations will not be allowed to feed power back onto the grid until  the city’s back end billing  processes can accommodate everything required by net metering.   It is quite difficult to put an accurate time frame on when net metering will be allowed, other than to say that in the future it is expected to be common practice.

PV  and other renewable energy installations may currently run connected to the grid  and offset instantaneous consumption as long as there is never any reverse power flow.  One of the ways this may be achieved is through careful balancing of load with generation. Written permission to connect in parallel with the grid must be obtained and one would be required to comply with the City’ requirements in this regard.

There is  one exception regarding allowing reverse power flow (although it  is not very attractive) : current prepayment meters  decrement both on forward and reverse power flow- for residential applications consumers with  prepayment meters may connect renewable energy generation to the grid and then with careful load balancing reduce the amount of instantaneous reverse  power flow to a minimum. This is a temporary solution – in the future when a suitable metering solution is identified the City will require the prepayment meter to be replaced with a bidirectional prepayment meter.

Electromechanical  credit meters running in the reverse direction are not acceptable to the City. They are not designed to run backwards and are not certified to do so. Some may be accurate and others may not. The City is not in a position to test the accuracy of each individual meter. The City is not prepared to have bi-directional residential credit meters installed for the purpose of net metering as it has a general policy to move away from credit meters to prepayment meters for residential applications.

The City has chosen the set of standards and specifications with  which the developer/supplier  must prove  compliance.  These standards are still being developed and track national developments.

Regards

Brian Jones

Brian Jones
Head: Green Energy
Electricity Services

and

Appended e-mails refer. I would advise as follows:

You may connect a residential PV panel in parallel with the City’s grid if you can live with your prepayment meter (you will be required to have a prepayment meter installed if you don’t have one) decrementing on both forward and reverse power flow. With careful shifting of load to coincide with maximum pv production, under the tariffs proposed for the next financial year (they have not yet been adopted) the breakeven point is in the region of about 150 kWh per month reverse power flow- bear in mind that the proposed small scale embedded generation tariff has a daily service charge and the normal domestic tariff does not.

Ryno van der Riet copied to herewith can provide details of the technical requirements. There is also an application form.

To be legal the installation has to be approved by the City.
Feel free to contact me should you have any further queries.

Regards

Brian

Brian Jones
Head: Green Energy
Electricity Services
7th floor ENS House
No 2 Lower Loop Street
City of Cape Town 8001
P.O. Box 82
Cape Town 8000
Telephone : 021 446 2015
Fax : 021 446 2066/446 1987

and

The City is not in a position to purchase excess energy above what the consumer consumers- the consumer is to be on average a net consumer not a net generator. There is at present no other source of funding to finance RE production therefore the proposed tariffs will pay a reduced rate for excess energy generated- in the region of 45c per kW (estimated to be same cost that energy would alternatively have been purchased from Eskom by the munic). The tariffs have been set so that people without generation will not be subsiding those who do.

“Rules” are still being established but I expect limits will be set on the size of generation that will be allowed eg. 3kW for a single phase connection.

When the tariffs have been approved a guide will be posted on the City website. Business processes still have to be implemented to accommodate bi directional billing etc and it will be a while before the tariffs are actually practicably implementable- but tariff setting is a once a year exercise and we might be able to implement the tariff for non residential applications this coming year.

Regards

Brian

The following will apply to new residential grid connections: Residential, until a new metering solution is adopted with the consumer being required to be on the domestic net metering tariff or other approved tariff arrangement. Only on the basis of being cost responsible for installing a new split prepayment meter with passive common base (if credit meter currently installed or not in place already), which decrements on reverse power flow and must be on domestic (not lifeline) tariff. No refund will be payable for decremented units and it will be in your interest to consume all renewable energy. If/once the new split bi-directional prepayment meter is available, we will pick up cost of new prepayment meter, if you move to residential net metering tariff. Compliance with technical specifications.

Application detail as follows:
GEN/EMB – Application for the connection of embedded generation. Refer to CCT website http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/electricity/Pages/ServiceApplicationForms.aspx

Clearance by other City of Cape Town Departments required. Their requirements are as follows:
2.1 Planning and Building Development Management (Various offices and queries to Peter Henshall-Howard):
a. All PV roof top installations: No building plans are required to be submitted provided the panel(s) in its installed position does not project more
than 1,5 metres, measured perpendicularly, above the roof and/or not more than 600mm above the highest point of the roof.
Full building plans, including an engineer’s endorsement, are required if the panel(s) in its installed position projects by more than 1,5 metres,
measured perpendicularly, above the roof and/or more than 600mm above the highest point of the roof. Note that a relaxation in terms of
the Zoning Scheme Regulations is also required.
b. PV Installations on the ground: No building plans are required to be submitted provided the panel(s) in its installed position does not project
more than 2.1 metres above the natural/finished ground level. Full building plans are required where any part of the installation projects more
than 2.1 metres above the ground level.
c. Other: Clearance required for other embedded generation such as wind.
2.2 City Health Specialised Services (Shannon Maree and Ian Gildenhuys):
a. Air Quality and Mechanical Engineering (Noise) Units have no objection to not being consulted with these type of applications with the
proviso that no diesel fuelled mechanical engine generator forms part of the installation.
b. Should a mechanical engine which burns fuel or generates noise be incorporated in the installation, such applications should be referred to
City Health.
2.3 Environmental Management Systems and Audit (Keith Wiseman):
a. Large scale PV installations would require environmental authorisation (EA) in terms of the NEMA 2010 EIA Regulations if they generate
> 10 MW electricity, or <10 MW but cover an area of 1ha or more. b. Electrical transmission infrastructure that may be associated with a large scale PV system would require EA if it has a capacity of 275 kV or more within an urban area, or more than 33kV outside urban areas. c. The airport would count as inside an urban area. d. Large scale roll-out of SWHs wold not require EA. There may however be heritage compliance issues in some areas of the City. e. Household installation of PV would not require an EA unless it exceeds the electricity generation threshold mentioned above, which seems unlikely. SSEG ENA G83/1-1 Appendices. Declaration by professional engineer/technologist of SSEG installation compliance to G83/1-1 & NRS 097-2-1. Inverter type testing by 3rd party test house such as Bureau Veritas [examples of SMA and MLT Drives attached]. Electrical installation Certificate of Compliance. SSEG electrical network drawing. Inverter programed to NRS 097-2-1. Site layout. Operations and Maintenance Procedure. NERSA requirements are that City of Cape Town is responsible for registering installations less than 100 kW exporting to the grid, in line with “Standard Conditions for Small Scale (less than 100kW) Embedded Generation within Municipal Boundaries”. Retrospective requirements might be required in future. Note licencing and registration requirements in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA). Regards Ryno van der Riet