How solar power works – Ed Hill – Specialised Solar Systems


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Presentation by Ed Hill of Specialised Solar Systems at the CHOICES project community energy workshops in Somerset East, Pearston and Cookhouse communities, Blue Crane Route Municipality in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, held in February and March 2013.

The presentation provides a background on how solar power technology works.

More information about Specialised Solar Systems:

Further details of the CHOICES project:

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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How solar power works – Ed Hill – Specialised Solar Systems

  2. 2. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS ‘Solar’ means “Of The Sun” Solar power is power or energy from the sun The sun many forms of energy, including Heat and Light Heat from the sun can be used in Solar Water Heating Light from the sun can be converted into electricity using Photovoltaic Panels ‘Photovoltaic’ means “Electricity from Light” Photovoltaic (PV) Panels only generate electricity in daytime WHAT IS SOLAR POWER?
  3. 3. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS WHAT IS SOLAR POWER? A Photovoltaic (PV) Panel is made of a number of ‘cells’ Each cell contains a mixture of silicon (refined sand) and other trace chemicals The silicon compound reacts to sunlight and generates a small electric charge A number of cells are connected together to produce 12 volts or more The cells are bonded onto a plastic base with connectors at the back This is then covered by a strong glass plate (25mm hailstone protected) The panel is put into an aluminium frame, ready to be installed
  4. 4. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS HOW DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM WORK? A solar power system consists of several components: A Photovoltaic (PV) Panel/s; A Charge Controller; A Battery/ies; A Load (light/s, etc.) A Switch and Wiring
  5. 5. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS The solar power system is basically a battery charging system. In most cases, the appliances are running off battery power (sometimes through an inverter). The PV Panel charges the battery each day through the charge controller. The PV Panel must be big enough to charge the battery enough in one day to replace the power used during that day. The battery must be big enough to keep supplying power for 2 to 3 cloudy or rainy days. HOW DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM WORK?
  6. 6. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS HOW DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM WORK? A solar power system can be likened to a motor vehicle such as a MINIBUS TAXI: (Although it shouldn’t be operated like one!)
  7. 7. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS The PV Panel can be likened to the engine – the larger the engine the larger the load (more people) the taxi can carry. The sun is the fuel, the more fuel you put in, the longer it will run. The battery is like the petrol tank, if you have a small tank, you can’t put in much fuel (power). The bigger the tank, the more petrol it can hold and the longer it can run before putting more in. There needs to be a carburettor (charge controller) in the engine to control the fuel flow. HOW DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM WORK?
  8. 8. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS The taxi needs a road to run on – the wiring circuit of the system. The purpose of the taxi is to take the passengers to their homes and then return to the taxi rank – the circuit must power light bulbs and appliances, and have a ‘closed circuit’. The engine must be switched on to make the taxi run – the circuit must be switched on to make the solar power system work. HOW DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM WORK?
  9. 9. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS South Africa receives one of the highest rates of sunshine in the world. Whatever can be run off a battery can be suitable for solar power. This includes lights, cellphones, computers, fans, TV, refrigerators, water-pumps, even hair-clippers, hair-dryers and sewing machines. There is little or no danger of fire, shock, smoke, burns. Savings in time and monthly energy cost, and improved productivity. WHY USE A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM?
  10. 10. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS Limitations of Solar Power:- Solar power is fine for smaller electricity use appliances such as lights, cellphones, TV’s, but you need big, expensive systems to run things like: Washing machines, stoves, kettles, irons, heaters, electric tools. Solar power systems are limited by size of battery storage = cost. Batteries don’t last as long as other components = 3 to 5 years (except if you buy very large, expensive batteries (15 years+). With most solar home systems, the battery size only allows use limited to a certain number of hours per day, so energy management is important. WHY USE A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM?
  11. 11. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS A solar lantern can cost between R100 & R300 and provides 1 portable light. A small 2- or 4-light system with cell-phone charger can cost between R1 000 (cheap import) and R2 500. A Solar Home System with 3 inside lights, outside security light, cell-phone charger socket and radio can cost between R5 000 and R7 000 (if TV-ready). A Solar Home System able to run a fridge-freezer will cost between R17 000 and R23 000 (with an inverter) Solar power systems that will provide 90kWh or 180kWh per month (at 220v mains) will cost approximately R70 000 and R100 000 respectively HOW MUCH DOES A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM COST?
  12. 12. SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS Buy energy efficient light bulbs (3 – 9W) and other appliances Ordinary car batteries are not suited for solar power, it needs ‘high cycle’ or ‘deep cycle’ batteries. Make sure that the battery has enough capacity to last for 3 days without charging during cloudy weather (so know how much power you need per day); BEWARE of cheap imported ‘junk’ that can’t be repaired or replaced! Solar panels must always be installed to face NORTH in the southern hemisphere. CONSIDERING BUYING A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM?
  13. 13. “The cost of household energy has been substantially reduced from R119.00 to R42.50, providing a 36 percent increase in disposable income for the family. A decrease in the amount of paraffin being used has also had an impact on the routine of the parents in the house. They can now buy a week’s worth of paraffin in one visit to the shop. In the past the amount of money needed required multiple trips to the shop to buy a full weeks’ paraffin in advance.” SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS EXTRACTS FROM CASE STUDIES
  14. 14. “Plaatjie, the iShack beneficiary reported the following… “Before [I got] the solar [system] I had to go and visit my friend in Zone O [about 600m distance] where she had electricity to charge my old cellphone. I needed to wait for 4 hours. It was difficult because I get phone calls about work and I [used to] miss them so people stop[ped] calling me. Now I am available all the time and it is helping me to make more money.”
  15. 15. The success of Mr Mbana’s system led to funding for other installations in Smutsville-Sizamile, with some residents upgrading their systems to include TV, DSTV decoder and fridge-freezer, all running off solar power.
  16. 16. Bringing power to the remote village has shown that solar power can be provided where grid electricity cannot reach.
  17. 17. A SPECIALIZED SOLAR SYSTEMS PRESENTATION. Presented by Ed Hill For further enquiries please contact us: Tel: +27(0)44 878 1126 Web: Email: