Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  19 Jan 2012

POWER SUPPLY: White Solution For Electricity


Recent Western Cape Business News

THE soaring cost of electricity is putting enormous pressure on Western Cape fruit and wine producers who use large amounts of power for air conditioning to maintain optimal conditions for their export produce.

Most of the packing sheds, cold storage facilities and cellars were designed when electricity was cheap and air conditioning was an easy way to keep temperatures down.

Generally the buildings are large, single storey structures with massive roof areas that absorb a great deal of solar radiation.

The air conditioning plants have to work hard and costs are rising every year along with Eskom’s 25 percent tariff increases.

One Cape firm, however, believes it has found an answer in the form of locally manufactured roof coating that reflects most of the solar radiation and that keeps temperatures down and makes it much easier and cheaper for the air conditioning plants to cope with the sweltering summer heat.

The radiant heat barrier coating, Ceratech, uses technology developed by NASA for heat shields to protect space craft and crew from the searing heat generated as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Distell (formerly SFW) had a 15 000 sq m roof in Stellenbosch coated with the radiant heat barrier coating in 2004 and were delighted with the results.

The interior temperatures dropped and so did the electricity bill.

That was before the Eskom crisis and what made sense then has now become an essential defense against rising electricity prices and Distell has now decided that that over the next few years all its big roofs will be given the Ceratech treatment.

Work has already begun at Distell’s 15 000 sq/m warehouse in Springs.

Chris Hayman, CEO of Ceratech Holdings, says the saving in electricity will pay for the Ceratech coating in just 30 months and that figure would come down every year as electricity prices rocket upwards.

Solar water heaters have made us realise just how much heat roofs have to cope with. An area not much bigger than a square metre can absorb enough heat to keep a family supplied with hot water for 24 hours so one can imagine the heat load on a roof the size of a rugby field.”

The best way to deal with the problem is to reflect as much radiant heat as possible. This is done with a white coating containing millions of tiny ceramic bubbles that both reflect and emit the heat.”

The result is that the temperature of the roof sheeting never exceeds the ambient temperature. “On a sunny day the temperature of naked roof sheets will rise to 85 deg C and more while one coated with Ceratech will remain at around 30 deg C,” says Hayman.

This does two things. It keeps heat out of the building and it reduces the movement caused by the expansion and contraction of the roof. This reduces the stress on the fastenings as well as the friction in the overlap joints so roofs last longer and we are able to guarantee them for 10 years.”

Hayman is confident Distell’s lead will be followed by the fruit industry.

Packing and cooling sheds have large roof areas and this makes it difficult and expensive to preserve the cold chain. Ceratech can help them keep the heat out and cooling costs down. That is going to become more important each year as electricity tariffs rise,” he says.


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