Solar energy: How it all began

Solar energy sunflowersLong before civilization as we know it even existed, the sun was shining. This giant sphere of glowing gases is the heart of our solar system and is by far Earth’s most valuable source of energy for life.

The sun is abundant, it is continuous and it is free. It is no wonder then, that people have become so dependent on the energy generated by this celestial phenomenon – solar energy – as an unfailing source of light and heat.

Today, with the pervasive rise in electricity costs, many people have been looking to alternative sources of energy; and the sun is beyond question one of the greatest non-taxable sources of energy out there. But how did solar energy, as we now know it, come to be?

Solar energy – or more accurately, photovoltaic (PV) energy (solar cells) – has origins going as far back as 1876, when William Grylls Adams discovered that exposing selenium to light produced electricity.

Seventy eight years later, in 1954, three Bell Laboratories researchers by the names of Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson announced the discovery of the first silicon solar cell – a finding that proved to be a watershed moment in the history of solar energy.

Although too inefficient to be of much use, early solar cells produced enough electricity to run small electrical devices. This was lauded as one of the most significant breakthroughs ever in the history of solar energy. So much so, in fact, that the 25th of April – the day Bell Laboratories demonstrated to the world how silicon solar cells could produce electricity – is to this day celebrated as the anniversary of the first practical solar cell.

On 26 April 1954 the New York Times stated on its front page that the discovery of the first silicon solar cell marked “the beginning of a new era, eventually leading to the realisation of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilisation”.

From then onwards, solar energy grew more extensive, and gradually became a more affordable, viable option. In 1956 solar cells were commercially available – but at a whopping $300 (about R3 800 today) per 1 watt solar cell. At this stage, solar cells were only being used in small items like toys and radios – the first items to make solar energy available to consumers.

From these humble beginnings, solar energy snowballed, with solar power becoming the standard for powering space-bound satellites in the late 1960’s.

Soon after, in the early 1970’s, new methods were discovered to reduce the price to $20 (about R260 today) per watt, and off-shore oil rigs used solar cells to power up warning lights on top of rigs.

The rest, as they say, is history. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s, there was a huge change in the use of solar cells – from powering homes in remote areas, to fuelling telecommunication towers.

Today, solar energy touches almost every part of our lives and is becoming increasingly more affordable for everyday use. We use it to power up electric gate motors, to supply power to remote housing, and even to replace old windmills, which cost a fortune to repair.

African Advantages

In Africa in particular, solar energy is a huge godsend, because so many African countries see a lot of bright sunlight throughout the year. This is especially so in the dryer, often more remote areas, meaning solar power has the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa.

In terms of the distribution of solar resources across Africa, more than 85% of the continent’s landscape gets at least 2 000 kWh/(m² year).

South Africa alone is expected to reach an installed capacity of 8 400 MW by 2030, along with 8 400 MW of wind power. The amount of exposure South Africa gets to the sun’s rays by far exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America.

It is this great advantage that allows pbElectrical – a division of PBSA – to seize the vast opportunities our geography affords us, and to offer a range of reliable and affordable solar power products.

Solar Borehole Water Pumps

Because solar water pumps have no running costs, our solar borehole water pumps are the most cost effective way to pump water on farms.

Being a proud agent for the renowned Pumpman™ Solar Water Pump range, pbElectrical caters for all your water needs, offering a range of pumps that will pump water at different depths. Pumpman pumps are built to withstand even the harshest local weather and water conditions.

Curious to know how solar borehole water pumps work? It all starts with solar panels, which are made up of PV cells. These cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity throughout the day when the sun shines.

The brains of the system – the control box – is what makes everything work. This includes the monitoring of water levels in the well and water tank, as well as switching the pump on and off, ensuring the pump only pumps water when needed.

Finally, there is the water pump. This submersible pump goes into the borehole and pumps water to the water tank. The type of system you install will depend on factors such as how much water you need, the ground level, water level, etc.

About pbElectrical

pbElectrical provides electrical contracting services and products, as well as a range of add-on services, to corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The division offers existing PBSA customers complementary turnkey solutions, as well as offering new clients holistic electrical and related products and services, backed by a certified ISO 9001 quality management system.

Contact:

Website: http://www.pbsa.co.za/pbelec.php

Office: 011 516 9416

Mobile: 083 462 6518 (Helgard Joubert)

Email: helgardj@pbsa.co.za

pbVerify Bank Code Update gives added assurance

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bank code update2For absolute assuredness around credit risk, complete your business credit report with a bank code update.

As a business striving for problem-free, profitable dealings with customers, you know how important complete, accurate and up-to-date credit information is, and you will want to leave no stone unturned when it comes to assessing creditworthiness.

As South Africa’s leading credit bureau, pbVerify provides you with all the products you as a business need, to guarantee sound commercial transactions – including a Bank Code Update service to round off business credit reports.

Complementing pbVerify’s recently launched XDS Business Credit Report, is our commercial bank code update service – also provided by XDS – that allows you to acquire an up-to-date bank code from any listed South African bank.

Bank codes are critical when it comes to assessing the credit limits and creditworthiness of potential customers. Before extending credit to any business, request a Bank Code Update on the pbVerify system to the value of credit you are considering.

In a nutshell, this is how it works: After you have submitted the required information, pbVerify’s Bank Code Update service makes contact with the customer in question’s bank, and requests the latest bank code against the desired Rand value. The return bank report is kept in your pvVerify account and can be retrieved any time after it is received.

What is a Bank Code?

A bank code is essentially a code provided by a bank on the company in question’s account, representing how good the company is for the amount of credit it is applying for. This is an investigation report that takes 24 hours.

As the business looking into a company as a potential customer, you are required to enter the company’s bank details (bank name, branch, account number) and the terms of the enquiry. For example, if the company in question signed a credit agreement of R10 000 for 12 months. The terms would then be R10 000 at 30 days over 12 months.

Below are the possible bank codes pbVerify’s Bank Code Update service could return:

A = Undoubted for the amount of your enquiry

B = Good for the amount of your enquiry

C = Good for the amount quoted if strictly in the way of business

D = Fairtrade risk for the amount of your enquiry

E = Figures considered too high

F = Financial Position Unknown

G = Paper occasionally dishonoured

H = Paper frequently dishonoured

Bank Code Update is a standard feature within the pbVerify system and is also available to third-party integrators via an API.

Please note:

  • Before requesting a bank code, businesses need to ensure that the company registration number matches that associated with their bank account.
  • It takes 24 hours from the time of enquiry for a bank code to be returned to the business enquiring.
  • This product is only available for companies – a bank code cannot be requested for an individual.

pbVerify launches new business report

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business credit reportSA’s leading data bureau has added a new B2B product to its extensive suite of credit risk management products.

SA’s leading data bureau, pbVerify, has just launched a new product to complement its existing B2B suite – the XDS Business Credit Report.

The new product will furnish businesses looking to draw business credit reports with instant insight into the existing status of any company that is registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

XDS is one of South Africa’s leading credit bureaus and, while pbverify has been an XDS partner for many years and offered a range of consumer verification products, the new XDS report is the first business product to be launched on the pbVerify website.

A comprehensive overview and statement of the credit status of any company being researched for credit worthiness, the XDS Business Credit Report is competitively priced and offers all the information (on both the company and its directors) a business requires to make sound commercial decisions.

The information offered in the XDS Business Credit Report also helps businesses prevent fraud by exposing whether any prior legal action has been taken against the company in question. It also gives businesses assurance that the Business and Principal information the company in question has provided, is 100% legitimate.

Below is just some of the information businesses can expect to garner from pbVerify’s new Business Credit Report from XDS:

  • Company CIPC status and information
  • Commercial credit score (with indicator)
  • Auditor information
  • Active director information
  • Business contact information
  • Business banking details
  • Bank Code history information
  • Commercial adverse information (judgements, defaults, etc)

Note: When drawing a business credit report, consent will always be required in terms of the National Credit Act (NCA) and its Prescribed Purposes. Read more about this here.

Get through winter with a quality air purifier

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Don’t let the ailments associated with the season get the better of you – create pure indoor air, breathe freely and enjoy good health this winter.

The sudden icy temperatures over the past week are proof that winter is well and truly upon us and, while many may associate allergies with the summer months, the truth is that winter is a breeding ground for the particles and germs responsible for poor health during this time.

Studies have shown that most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors in winter – if not more – and, with the cold season being the time dusty winter coats and blankets are brought out, and long-dormant heating devices powered up, indoor air quality hits an annual low.

On top of this, the chances of transmission of common winter ailments rise steeply, due to the bacteria and viruses that cause them densely populating indoor air.

In fact, if we had to really grasp the extent of allergens, particles, germs and irritants that circulate through our indoor air during the winter months, we would probably wonder how it is that we can breathe at all.

The good news is, using a high-quality air purifier can reduce – and even completely eradicate – winter allergy symptoms and significantly reduce your susceptibility for catching a cold or getting the flu.

pbOffice (a division of PBSA) offers a range of top-quality air purifiers by IDEAL, which feature all the vital components needed to turn contaminated indoor air into pure, healthy and allergen-free air – including HEPA filters and intelligent air quality sensors.

Our devices work on a six-stage AEON Blue air purification system, which filters almost 100% of the smallest particles and pathogenic germs from the polluted air before they reach your airway. Additionally, the clean air is enriched with negative ions – oxygen atoms that are charged with an extra electron (as found in nature) and are proven to have significant health benefits.

With pbOffice’s air purification solutions, you can safely say goodbye to indoor air pollutants like viruses and bacteria, pollen, animal hair, chemical fumes, dust, odours, tobacco smoke and aerosol fumes.

This winter, don’t succumb – invest in and enjoy a quality air purifier for your home and office and say goodbye to the “sick season” blues.

[REFERENCES]  

Wikipedia – HEPA

Web MD – Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes

Consumer credit checks and the NCA

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Consumer credit checks

Businesses need to provide reasons for drawing consumer credit reports, in terms of the National Credit Act. 

If you are a credit provider of any kind, it is inevitable that you will frequently have to dig into the financial history of potential debtors.

pbVerify offers a range of Business to Consumer (B2C) credit check services*, which help businesses make better business credit decisions when assessing new debtors. As SA’s leading data bureau, we know that the better the information you have on your potential customers, the better your decisions will ultimately be.

At the same time, you need to be aware that the rights of the credit-seeking consumer are clearly enshrined in legislation, in particular the National Credit Act (NCA) No. 34 of 2005, and the onus is on you to make sure you comply.

Yes, as a credit grantor following good business practice, you have the basis for an enquiry into a potential debtor’s financial history (i.e. via a credit report) – but a consumer’s credit report is confidential and may not be accessed without legal grounds, or the consumer’s explicit permission.

These “legal grounds” are laid out in the NCA, in the form of prescribed purposes (the Act requires that you specify the reason you are drawing a credit report).

In this article, we will outline the rationale behind the NCA, and list some of the prescribed purposes it incorporates.

The purpose of the NCA

South Africa’s population consists mainly of lower LSM (Living Standards Measure) individuals with limited to no access to credit channels.

According to the Banking Association of South Africa, the complex nature of credit agreements has left many of the country’s consumers vulnerable and often exploited by credit providers.

“This led to the establishment of the NCA [which includes] mechanisms to protect consumers against unscrupulous lending and over-indebtedness.”

The NCA seeks to “promote and advance the social and economic welfare of South Africans, promote a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market and industry, and to protect consumers.”

The association lists credit providers as banks, micro-lenders, retailers (e.g. furniture and clothing stores) and “all businesses, companies, close corporations, partnerships and individuals who do business on credit, provide loans or charge interest on overdue accounts; and who offer credit within the prescribed threshold values in terms of the [NCA] Act”.

Consumers, says the association, include both individuals (natural persons) and “certain juristic persons [e.g. companies, close corporations, trusts (with more than three individual trustees), partnerships and an association of persons] whose asset value or annual turnover, together with the combined asset value or annual turnover of all related juristic persons, at the time the agreement is made, equals or exceeds the threshold value of R1 million”.

Prescribed purposes

A credit bureau may issue you with a consumer’s credit report in terms of the NCA, under a number of prescribed purposes – including, but not limited to:

  • Account Management
  • Affordability Assessment
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Book Assessment
  • Consumer Enquiry
  • Credit Assessment
  • Credit Limit
  • Credit Ombud Enquiry
  • Tracing (non-credit provider
  • Debt Review
  • Education / Employment
  • Employment
  • Fraud Investigation
  • Fraud Prevention
  • Insurance Application
  • Marketing Services
  • Other Legislation
  • On consumer instruction/consent
  • Score Development
  • Tracing
  • Unclaimed Funds

The above are abbreviated descriptions. For the full description, explanation and NCA references, click HERE.

pbVerify’s B2C credit check suite and is available after registration to any business that grants credit to other businesses or consumers.

 

*pbVerify’s Consumer Credit Check services include the Transunion ITC Credit Check; Compuscan Credit Check; Experian Credit Check; XDS Credit Check; pbVerify Credit Check; and our recently added Express Credit Score product (See related blog here).

 

REFERENCES

  1. National Credit Act 34 (2005)
  2. The Banking Association of South Africa website
  3. IOL – Who may see your credit report?
  4. pbVerify blog – Credit vetting: an essential key to SME success
  5. Compuscan’s “Prescribed purposes for access to consumer data” guide

Portfolios feature aids POPI, FICA compliance

doc dSignFlow’s secure multi-document portal, Portfolios, offers businesses a reliable means of complying with stringent regulations.

There are two well-known and much-publicised Acts that make South African businesses shudder in their shoes – the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) of 2001 and the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act of 2013.

The two pieces of legislation have much in common. To begin with, they both have to do with how your business deals with customer identification and verification processes, and how it stores and maintains customer and transactional records. Secondly, there are severe penalties associated with non-compliance – severe enough, in many cases, to cause irreparable reputational and financial damage.

Third of all – and this is the good news – SignFlow can help you comply with both. Our digital signature workflow solution offers you an efficient and sure-fire means of making sure your business processes and IT systems are up to scratch when it comes to compliance with both these Acts – so you need no longer shy away from the dreaded “F-word” and “P-word”.

Portfolios

FICA and POPI compliance largely comes down to how you transmit, maintain and store customer data and, while the sheer volume and variety of data may make the process seem very complicated, SignFlow’s Portfolios feature offers you a surprisingly simple means of tackling it.

A SignFlow Portfolio is basically a portal where you can accumulate multiple documents that have been through a workflow and signed, in combination with documents that are just uploaded and stored.

Because there is no email (which is inherently insecure) involved and all documents are uploaded through a secure, encrypted channel, to an online portal where they can only be accessed by the individuals authorised to access them, Portfolios is an invaluable tool to have in your arsenal when you are striving for FICA and/or POPI compliance.

Let’s take an insurance company, for example:

  • The company requires identification and proof of residence documents (documents required by FICA that both also have a bearing on POPI) from a client.
  • That same client needs to sign a contract, which contains personal and financial information, and send it back to the company.
  • SignFlow Portfolios enables you and your client to upload and share documents (both signed and unsigned) via an encrypted portal.
  • There is no emailing, printing or scanning of documents involved at any stage.
  • All your client’s information is kept neatly in one designated, easy-to-access and searchable databank.

Given that the implementation date for the POPI Act is expected to be set this year – and in light of the FICA failures* we have seen in the past, you are under more pressure than ever before to make sure your business complies. Contact SignFlow today for more information on how we can ease the pressure and give you total peace of mind.

* In April 2014, the South African Reserve Bank fined the country’s four largest banks R125 million collectively for failing to comply with FICA. (www.sanews.gov.za)

Who says nothing in life is free?


bunny DSignFlow is giving all new and existing SignFree users three FREE workflows.

When we created SignFree, the only digital signature platform worldwide with a totally free, fully functional interface that doesn’t expire, we told you it was free – and always would be. Great news, right? Well, it just got better.

Stepping it up a notch, SignFlow is now giving all SignFree clients – new and existing – three free (that’s free, not “free”) workflows.

What’s the catch, you may ask? There isn’t one. Simply sign up as a SignFree user – either by registering on the website or receiving a document to sign from another user – and you get a free passport to our digital world of efficiency.

And if you are already a SignFree user, you don’t need to do a thing – three free workflows are yours. You’re welcome.

Essentially, we are giving SignFree users a fully-fledged SignFlow with Workflow account, limited to three workflows (effective as of 1 March 2017).

Interested? You can register right now, right here.

Benefits & features

Now that you have this awesome digital signature solution securely in your grasp, you probably want to know what you can do with it.

First of all, you can sign as many documents as you want and store up to 50 in the SignFlow cloud. So you can upload documents requiring your signature, sign them in SignFlow and send them on to the relevant person through the system – no email tennis, no printing, no scanning, no time wasting.

With your new workflow account, you can also bring a document in to SignFlow and send it out to as many people as you want to sign your document. A workflow can comprise of any number of signers and/or approvers.

As a SignFlow user, you have your own Dashboard and Profile setup, which is full of functionality and easy to navigate. This includes, among other handy items, a suite of Microsoft plug-ins to make your SignFlow experience even more seamless.

Then, of course, there are all the cool customisable features that come with having a SignFlow account – like the option to either free-hand draw your signature, or choose one from a variety of fonts, as in the images below.

Choose font signatureDraw signature

In a nutshell, SignFlow is a digital signature workflow manager fully digitises (and enhances) any process that requires a document to be signed or approved. When it comes to our SignFree with Workflow solution, compared to others out there, you will find more functionality, more documents, more security, stronger compliance and a superior customer experience.

We could go on for pages about all the things you can do with your SignFlow account and free workflows, but figure it would be more fun for you to explore your newfound digital signature capabilities yourself. To learn more about the world of options SignFlow opens up, visit our Features and Benefits page, here.

Finally, all that’s left to say is, “Enjoy!” If you like the system and want to keep on workflowing – why not sign up for a SignFree with Workflow account? It’s easy, affordable and sure to become so indispensable a tool, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.