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The Diary: We install a solar plant

  • September 27, 2023 | Rhulani Safari Lodge

27 September 2023

After a lot of optimization in the technology, we are now improving the aesthetics. The bases on which the solar system stands are now painted with fresh paint. In the end, the bases should adapt well to the surrounding nature, both in the dry winter and in the summer, where green grass grows. Not an easy task.






25 September 2023

The solar system is running better and better and more stable in the critical transitions. It strengthens the confidence that we have a top solution in Rhulani! Still there is a new challenge. The temperature of the batteries exceeded the critical limit of 60°C in the evening, causing them to switch off for safety and self-protection. Now we have to think about how we can cool the batteries. Why not building a new, cooled room where we could also store our wines? We definitely innovative ideas!



22 September 2023

Everything can change so quickly. On Monday we were still struggling with the internal fine-tuning and were happy that we were still getting electricity from ESKOM. Soon all the errors were fixed. Then a monster storm was sweeping through the Northwest Province, and as a result there has been no power within a radius of more than 100km since then. An just at the right time the system at Rhulani runs with solar and batteries and the generator at times without any problems. Fantastic!


20 September 2023

The expert from Blockpower has been with us again since yesterday morning. While Sean is busy repairing any damage from the recent power surge and busy shopping for new equipment, the necessary testing is being carried out to prevent similar scenarios in the future. There are short tests during the day where we have to turn off the power. Luckily, our guests are on safari in the morning and evening so they don't notice anything.


18 September 2023

A challenging weekend is behind us, which especially kept Sean, our assistant manager, on his toes. Issues with automated transitions between solar, Eskom, generator and batteries. Short power outages, and some damage from power surges. Fortunately, we always had electricity and our guests were hardly affected. A new week is now starting and we are now expecting decisive progress. We have a big goal ahead of us!


15 September 2023

This morning we woke up with a smile. The reason for this is the progress in system coordination. The interaction of the various back-ups during the night - battery, Eskom line and generator - which maintains our power supply, was automated and largely problem-free this night. Sean is glad he didn't have to get up in the middle of the night to manually turn on the generator. 



14 September 2023

Today we're taking a look at our brand new solar system from the air on a sunny day. This looks exactly like what we agreed upon in the planning phase. A total of four solar tables decorate the area behind our Staff Village. Impressive, isn't it?




13 September 2023

This is where we found the defective cable. About half a meter below the ground, at a weak joint, the Eskom line's power cable burned. Luckily, we found it with good measuring devices and the electrician was there quickly. The cable was repaired late in the evening, so we have now reinstalled our power backup.




12 September 2023

The only thing we are missing is 2 batteries, which means we keep the Eskom power supply as our back-up. But we realized that the power cable just burned in this critical initial phase, so our big, white generator has to help, as it has so often done, to bridge the lack of electricity. We were a bit nervous because there was no diesel available in South Africa last week, but thank God our diesel tank was refilled today. Let's see what today brings.


10 September 2023

Now for us it's time to test, test and test again. The interaction between the panels, the inverters, the batteries and the two other back-ups, namely the generator and the traditional electricity supply from Eskom, is a classic optimization exercise and requires a lot of sensitivity and know-how. We see the values on the control board. It's not perfect yet, but we're making progress.



8 September 2023

On a day when the technicians are still busy with the electrical installation, the area around the solar panel tables is quiet. The bushbuck family that is living at Rhulani has also noticed this and is busy settling in here. These cute antelopes seem to like the shade and the slightly cooler air under the panels!





7 September 2023

The technicians are currently at work and both the AC and DC teams are ensuring the connections. This morning another truck arrived at Rhulani with the batteries. It's hard to believe that these two small white boxes weigh 650 kg each! They were so heavy that they could only be placed in the battery room from the top using a lifting crane, and therefore we had to remove the roof of the house. Now everything is perfectly placed.



31 August 2023

Today we ask ourselves the question, what color should we paint the concrete bases that support the panel structure? At the moment they are still in the original grey. But it would be nice if these sockets would blend in better with the nature around us and be less noticeable. Maybe Grecian green? Or a dark green? Or rather light brown like Quail, because nature is mostly dry here? Still under discussion...




30 August 2023

Final spurt! The very last panels on table number 4 are assembled, and with that the hard, physical work is finished. The installation team left this afternoon. Now the installation remains with the DB box, the batteries, the inverters.... still some work to do until the whole thing gets up and running.





28 August 2023

We look to the sky. Just before the end of the assembly we notice: a box with brackets is missing! This now has to be brought to Rhulani express so that the very last panels can be fitted.







24 August 2023

The balance of a working day: A total of 80 new solar panels installed. The inverters and PV combiners were installed on tables 3 and 4. Earth loops completed on table 3 and halfway table 2. PV cable managemrnt completed table 1, table 2 and table 3. That looks good!





23 August 2023

A look at the work this morning. The team is busy installing the panels, the wiring and the DB boxes. All frames are up. We feel like everything is going according to plan and pretty quickly.






22 August 2023

Today, the technicians connected the first table to the junction box where all the solar power goes to, and further, the third table was completed and the fourth structure has been erected, so the panels can be installed there tomorrow.









22 August 2023

With the beginning of the week, the very last load arrived around noon today, so that we can now say that 100% of the equipment for our solar system is with us. Today's work focuses on erecting the two remaining tables, where first the holding structure and later the panels will be assembled, one by one.





21 August 2023

The quiet weekend break is over. It has been good for all of us. Assistant Manager Tom-Hendrik uses the quiet atmosphere in the new facility for an inspection tour. He says: "With each day comingh closer to completion, we look forward to the day where we can be completely off the grid and enjoy the peace and tranquility which Rhulani offers uninterrupted." This is how we start the week in the hope that by are finished on Friday.




18 August 2023

A detailed look at the first table of Solar Panels. All connections are now installed. Time for a short breather at the weekend.











17 August 2023

The material is all there now: panels, inverters, batteries, .... the work is now running in parallel at different points. The progress is brisk and the puzzle is slowly being put together.














15 August 2023

While the installation of the panels at Rhulani's backyard is progressing, our supplier Blockpower is also busy in Johannesburg and sent the very last delivery today. It's two fully loaded bakkies. We expect them - together with the AC team - at 11.15 a.m. at Wonderboom gate.



13 August 2023

After a bumpy start, the installation work is now running like clockwork. 112 of a total of 256 panels are installed. 66% of the holding structure and 100% of the concrete ballasts are standing. The PV inverters, battery inverters and the balance of systems will be delivered next Tuesday. The installation team will then be increased from 7 to 14 people, which will shorten the installation timelines even further.




12 August 2023

The next step has been completed: the first tranche of solar panels has been installed. There are 32 panels on table 1. We are thrilled!







11 August 2023

A milestone has been reached, the table structure is complete. Looks great, doesn't it? Time for a short breather. We are expecting the third and last delivery for the inverters, mounting plates, frames and some missing items for the mounting structures at the beginning of next week.







10 August 2023

Wow, our solar system is slowly taking shape! The first beams of the holding structure are anchored on the rings. This is the basis so that the panels can be attached soon.








9 August 2023

Work is now in full swing. Concrete has been added to 34 rings and floated, shorting 1-2 cubes of concrete for final rings ...






8 August 2023

First visible results. The concrete pipes have been put into pop position. These will house the concrete by which the mounting structure will be installed on top of along with the panels. We would like these to blend in as best as possible, and we will be painting them.






7 August 2023

Before the hard work can begin, one last look at the area where the solar plant will be placed. Luckily it seems like we won't need a TLB, and the grounds are leveled out. Still, some unexpected work with the rubble lying around and removing the boulders. But now the work can begin!





6 August 2023

Finally - the wait is over. Two months have passed since the first delivery of solar panels. The ground made of Dolomite rock, which was too hard, had made it impossible to anchor the basic structure, and a new solution had to be found. The so-clear system is now to be placed on a solid base. We are happy to receive the truck today. It's finally starting!





6 June 2023

We still have to be patient. The assembly work has not yet started. Meanwhile we safely store the equipment, and the imposing amount of ground mounting structure, in our backyard. Nevertheless, we are confident that we will have the solar plant up and running by the end of the month.






5 June 2023

We welcome the two technicians Andre and Sam in Rhulani. Before the real, hard, backbreaking work begins, the project plan must be verified again and the locations for the solar plant, the storage space for the batteries and inverters must be precisely measured and inspected. Another calm day, something like the calm before the storm



4 June 2023

Today is Sunday. After yesterday's delivery and unloading of the equipment, today is a rest day for everyone. Time to mentally prepare for the project by which Rhulani Safari Lodge will secure electricity in the future. There will be a ground mounted structure of east/west facing solar panels at the rear of our Staff Village. It is not visible to our guests at first glance, but can of course be visited, in case there is interest. Work starts tomorrow.



3 June 2023

Done! A little late, but still safe. The first truck has made the 400 km route successfully and also managed somehow to pass the last 7 km on the bumpy road. The first of a total of three deliveries is now at Rhulani. There is about half of all solar panels and most  of the mounting structure. Enough to keep the ball rolling. The unloading started immediately. The construction work can begin tomorrow. We stay tuned!





2 June 2023

Kick-off for the largest project in the more than 20-year history of Rhulani. The trucks are being loaded and the first batch of equipment is now on its way to us. We expect delivery tomorrow morning. We are looking forward to the installation of our solar plant during the next days and wish the technicians from Blockpower a safe journey! See you in the morning!