The pioneering Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst is leading the way in off the grid living and inspiring the rest of the country to get on board.

The residents of Parkhurst – the leafy heart of middle-class suburban Joburg – are fed up with having to deal with the consistent connectivity and electricity issues faced daily by the citizens of South Africa. Last year, in an unprecedented act of community action, they became the first suburb on the continent to install their own Fibre to The Home (FTTH) network – delivering some of the fastest internet seen in SA yet. They inspired other neighbourhoods to get on board, with much larger suburbs like Sunninghill recently announcing that they too will be joining the FTTH fray.

Now the pioneering Parkhurst residents, inspired by the success of their broadband project, have again taken matters into their own hands and followed through on their plan, announced in February this year, to take more than 2000 houses completely off the grid by 2020 – all at their own expense.

The project is being headed up by ‘hurstian Ryan Beech, managing director of Joburg-based robotics consultancy Accessential. “It is about changing the way you live,” Beech explained to HTXT earlier this month, “It’s not just solar panels. It’s installing the right insulation, making use of wood-pellet stoves, changing to energy-saving light bulbs or using anything that is more efficient than Eskom.”

What has made the project really interesting at this point is that they’re trying to encourage others to get on board by making all the details of the move public knowledge – most important of which is how much this is setting residents back.

Their pricing system is very sophisticated and all residents will be assisted by the Parkhurst Residents and Business Association (PRBOA) to get themselves going. To give you an idea, they predict that in order to set up a standard load-shedding solar system (9.6 kilowatt-hour (kWh) storage) it is going to cost the residents R52 000 (plus VAT).

It’s a fascinating project that makes the reality of living off the grid a tangible reality.


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