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Keeping Africa’s largest distribution facilities ‘switched on’

Home Transport & Logistics Keeping Africa’s largest distribution facilities ‘switched on’

FINDING both energy and cost-efficient solutions to the operational challenges that the warehousing and distribution sector currently faces across Africa is a high priority, particularly for the continent’s retail giants.

That’s according to Marcel Buckner, ESS Business Development Manager for Eaton Africa, who said national utility Eskom had been under immense strain in recent years, with ongoing load shedding causing continuous outages across the country.

Alternative power management solutions have become crucial, particularly for large retailers that need to ensure optimum shelf life for perishable goods in cold storage, added, citing the example of Shoprite’s recently opened 123,000 m2 Whitey Basson Distribution Park in the Western Cape.

Africa’s largest food retailer had to find the right switchgear solution for its most technologically advanced distribution centre, consisting of three warehouses, one of which is completely devoted to cold storage.

“At the time the facility was designed, load shedding was causing an average of two power outages a day in the Cape Town area and at this rate, conventional switchgear that generally lasts between 2,000 and 3,000 operations would need to be replaced every three to four years,” Buckner said.

“Shoprite would have incurred additional maintenance costs due to the unplanned outages. The installed Eaton Xiria E switchgear offering the user more operations, has helped to alleviate this.”

Working with global power management solution company Eaton, engineering professional services consulting firm, WSP Africa, developed a medium voltage (MV) power distribution system using Eaton’s innovative Xiria E extendible -type switchgear.

This would provide a 10,000-operation switchgear solution, also allowing for a more flexible power distribution system with a broad range of protection and control options, and the possibility for future extensions of the secondary switchgear system.

Saverio Talotti, Regional Director at WSP Africa said Eaton’s Xiria E MV switchgear made the most sense economically, “both in terms of up-front costs and total cost of ownership and… had a major impact on project and future cost”.

Talotti added that Eaton’s vacuum interrupters are maintenance free and are certified up to 30,000 operation cycles. The Xiria E MV switchgear also claims to offer a lower total cost of ownership in comparison to sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) contained switchgear. Xiria systems, materials and components are also all recyclable at end of life.

“As sustainability continues to become an increasingly important issue in the electric power industry, the move to SF6-free switchgear is an imperative step towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and the retail sector also has a role to play in reducing environmental impact.”

The electricity industry uses approximately 80 percent of all sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) produced in the world, while end-of-life disposal of SF6 switchgear in South Africa can run upwards of 25 percent of the original cost of the equipment, adding significantly to the total cost of ownership (TCO).

To add to the problem, SF6 is 23,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide and tops the list of the most harmful greenhouse gases, remaining in the atmosphere for 3,200 years with a global warming potential (GWP) of around 22,800.

“Solutions like these can and should define the future of warehousing and distribution across sectors,” said Eaton’s Buckner.

“Ongoing support is also vital for interventions like these to be successful. That’s why Eaton will be providing the Shoprite Group with ongoing technical support, which includes emergency intervention, maintenance, and life-extension services, as this will continue to ensure the system design is a sustainable solution for the group.”

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