Prepayment meter: South African mini grid uses Conlog AMI system


Conlog prepayment meter fuel cell minigrid projectIn South Africa, an affiliate of energy management giant Schneider Electric is supplying advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to a rural mini grid project based on fuel cell technology.

Meter manufacturer Conlog will provide wireless prepayment electricity units to the African project aimed at giving a community in the Free State province access to power.

Prepayment system

The wireless meters provided are based on a 20-digit standard transfer specification (STS) token system, available to buy from the local municipality.

Using Conlog’s meter data management system – Iridium –  data will be communicated wirelessly to and from the meter via data concentrator units connected to a suite of management tools at the head-end.

Commenting on Conlog’s level of involvement in the project, Mr Surujdeen said: “Conlog also monitors the entire site and allows remote management of the metering devices.

“Services provided by us include a 24/7 uptime guaranteed, automated maintenance and backups, secure transactions securely via a dedicated APN, and a service desk and support.”

Fuel cell technology

The project to electrify Naledi Trust, a small rural community of 34 homes near Kroonstad, will use a mini grid powered by fuel cells and claims to be the first of its kind in the world.

The Naledi Trust fuel cell system consists of three platinum-based, five kilowatt fuel cell stacks, each with a methanol reformer and a methanol fuel supply tank.

The system is integrated into a power generation system that includes batteries, DC/ AC inverters and controls.

Surujdeen said: “The fuel cell system will supply the Naledi Trust households through an independent mini grid with sufficient power to use TVs, radios, lighting, refrigerators, cooking appliances and mobile phone chargers.

He added: “Fuel cells can also produce electricity whenever the demand exists. Importantly, switching on with fuel cell power is safe and healthy compared to hazardous wood fires or paraffin stoves, and improves rural lifestyles by reducing food waste through refrigeration and eliminating the use of candles for lighting.”

Need for electrification

Surujadeen commented that approximately 20,000 schools and clinics in remote rural areas of South Africa lack electrification due to the significant cost of extending existing grid power.

Other partners in the project are mining organisation Anglo American Platinum, fuel cell company Ballard Power Systems, the Department of Energy and South Africa’s public utility Eskom.