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Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Mercedes on my roof: my 51st Birthday Message

Do you have a Mercedes on your roof? Written 18th May 2015.

I do!

Actually its not a Mercedes. It's a Renewable Energy System and part of it is on my roof and part of it is in my Garage.

I bought it in late 2008 and it was all installed and running by April 2009. A friend of mine and I installed it!

Everybody, except my wife, said I was crazy. Why would anyone want to buy an electricity generation system rather than buying a Mercedes? I had even just test driven the new shape Mercedes in 2008 and a friend asked me when I was going to buy it.

As it was I spent R200,000 on the physical equipment and another R100,000 on a one month business trip to the USA, where I learnt about Grid Tie Photovoltaics (PV), wrote the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) Entry Level exam and attended conferences, in Phoenix Arizona, and in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Total R300,000, the cost of my new Mercedes.

Today the R200,000 component is about R70,000 and the education is priceless.

By the time I went to the USA in February 2009, I had already put over 1,000 hours into R&D (research and development) re learning about my first renewable energy system.

And every time I arrived in my garage after that, in my Renault Clio, which is now 14 years old, I saw my Mercedes on my wall and on my roof.

Load shedding has effected everyone I know, except us. Lots of people I know have recently done installs and they are getting to be like us now, and we are so welcoming of them. Thank you for joining this retirement party.

In my view, one is retired when one doesn't have any expenses. By 2008, Mirjana and I only had spent 9 years working on our retirement plan and I only had to work for 8 days a month to pay all our expenses. One day we will be back there.

Back in 2009, everyone was asking me how long this system was going to pay off. We worked out that it was costing us about R5 per kWh, when City of Cape Town electricity was only costing us 50 cents per kWh. Mirjana said it would take 20 years to pay it off.

In hindsight, I realised that we paid off this "car" off in 5 years, just like we would have paid off the real car. And so from January 2009 till December 2013, we paid off the car, and then in January 2014, our electricity bill suddenly dropped from R5,000 per month to R350 per month. If we hadn't done anything, then in January 2014, our electricity bill would have been R1,800 per month.

So in the past 17 months we have saved about R26,000 in electricity costs AND had no load shedding.

We still have a way to go as we want to add a pool cover this year, increase our PV from 1 kW to between 4 and 5 kW, depending on how much we can put on our north facing roof, add another battery bank and add another inverter (or perhaps buy a new model), and then we won't need Eskom.

We will in fact be able to supply electricity 24 hours a day as and when the City or Eskom need it, but in order to do this we want Net Metering and Time of Use Tariffs, otherwise we just don't think its worth exporting any electricity.

At some point in the future we also want to add another 5kW to power our electric car, when we can afford it and when it is affordable for us.

Some of the incredible things that have happened in the past 7 years are:

  • I have a thriving software development business and I truly enjoy making people happy and solving problems and this fits my personality profile. I also love that I can work from anywhere in the world and travel to be with my wife's family every 18 months to two years. As our expenses continue to go down, we want to increase these visits.
  • I have become a world renowned expert in Renewable Energy. I wasn't expecting this when I started out. I thought I'd just be an installer, installing systems, but I am in demand at conferences all over the place and I have had negotiations with conference organisers overseas, but nothing materialised yet. Soon or later it will happen.
  • As part of this I have attended conferences and / or written letters to newspapers and magazines on behalf of Treasure The Karoo Action Group and the South African Alternative Energy Association and  Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance.
  • I am also doing battery based system designs and consulting and I refer work to various contractors for doing installations.
  • Last year I turned 50. What a milestone it was. My business turned 20 years old last year and I have been married to the woman of my dreams for 17 wonderful, if somewhat turbulent, financially, years. But this is the life of an entrepreneur. 
Dawie Roodt in his book, "Tax, Lies and Red Tape", has this to say about entrepreneurs in South Africa: "Besides the taxman, the workforce has also been demanding its pound of flesh, and then some. In fact, South Africa's organised workforce has become so powerful and militant that it has been forcing entrepreneurs to pay employees more and more of the wealth they are trying to create - without offering them anything that resembles an equivalent rise in productivity. In addition, once an entrepreneur has hired a few workers, he or she cannot simply fire them again. Obviously entrepreneurs need workers to succeed in their effort to create wealth; good workers. But red tape from here to eternity prevents them from showing poor performers to the door. Small wonder then that there are so few entrepreneurs in South Africa; theirs is the most exploited occupation in the country.
But there are those of us who still believe in South Africa and are still here and still putting as much as we can in every day, paying all the taxes that are demanded of us, whilst at the same time still trying to make things better by offering electricity to the grid, or offering other services, which our government still ignores.

And so I wish everyone I know another amazingly interesting year. At a recent party, I said that life would be so dull if it was perfect. I look forward to making our world more perfect each day, together with so many amazing people in my life.

If you want to read more: here links to some other places I have written or published things on the 'net:

Here are my web sites and BLOGs:






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