Category: Solar

The Need for Solar Batteries

If you believe in all things green or have decided to go off the grid due to convenience, care and cost – whichever way you view the situation you are going to need a little knowledge on how solar batteries will work for you and your solar system.

Many home owners that are planning on installing a solar panel system don’t usually concern themselves with the many choices of solar batteries that are available. But there are many home owners as well as other solar energy users who are planning on installing a solar energy system that will be 100% off the grid or that at the very least, have emergency backup power. If this is the case you will most certainly need to learn a little about solar and be able to navigate your way around solar battery systems.

When properly managed a solar electricity storage system can prove to be a reliable and affordable method of powering your home or business.

Grid-Tie and Off-Grid Battery Systems:

Did you know that there are two different kinds of solar battery storage systems – these include grid-tie with battery back-up and off-grid?

Off-grid systems are independent of the grid. When it is dark and on cloudy days, off-grid solar homes rely on their solar batteries for power.

Peak generation of solar electricity happens around about midday with peak consumption usually happening at night when lights and appliances are turned on.

To power a home reliably; a battery bank must be able to efficiently charge in a couple of hours of intense sunlight and discharge during the night-time hours.

Solar batteries designed for this environment are referred to as deep-cycle batteries.

The most common solar deep-cycle batteries are referred to as being flooded, gelled lead-acid batteries and AGM.

These are three types of solar batteries that are able to discharge repeatedly, yet have low discharge rates.

Grid-tied systems with battery backup only use batteries when there is a power outage, but during normal operation, DC power form the solar panels is passed through a grid-tie inverter that converts it to AC power.

Always check with your supplier.

Home Solar Systems

There are many Questions Asked Regarding Home Solar Systems.

For those looking for an alternative way of powering their homes in South Africa, the answer is easy – home solar systems!

Thing is, how exactly does a home solar system work?

  • A PV – otherwise known as a Photovoltaic Solar System, consists of solar panels, racks for placing the panels onto your roof, an inverter and wiring.
  • From sun-up to sun-down the solar panelsgenerate electricity which is transmitted to an inverter.
  • The inverter in turn then converts this DC power into AC (Alternating Current) which is the standard used in most households.
  • AC power is then delivered directly to the main electrical service panel of your home.

Another oft-asked question is – how long will your solar system last – are you in for the long or the short-haul?

Systems can last anything from twenty five to forty five years, although some have been known to last even longer than this.

Does shade and grey days affect the efficiency of your home solar system?

Because solar operates at optimal output when the sun shines brightly, shading could prove to be an issue.

Unlike the early days of solar power when systems had to be sized for peak loads, a grid-connected PV system will seamlessly switch to draw from the utility grid when power is required.

Your solar system has been designed with an annual production target; in other words it has been specifically created to average out sunnier days with cloudy days; a win-win set-up all round.

Will the value of your home be augmented by installing a home solar system?

Invest in Home Solar Systems

Many people in South Africa are making use of home solar panels to generate power.

For example, in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, as is the case with many low-cost housing developments these houses are being fitted with solar panels for hot water geysers.

These might seem to be expensive to install at first, but they can and will save you a lot of expense in the long-term.

The internal working parts of power inverters and UPS, inverts the incoming DC voltage into sinewave waves – but due to the complexity of these parts, the result would be that investing in power inverters could prove to be a costly exercise.

Sine waves have been re-created to save costs; modified sinewave inverters as well as UPS systems simply switch from the DC supply between positive and negative poles to offer you a simulated sinewave wave.

Modified sinewave inverters and UPS systems are inexpensive to manufacture but could be very costly if these are installed into the wrong equipment.

Anything with a high inrush or high speed control or equipment with sensitive data should be connected to the correct power inverters to avoid damage.

It is imperative to take special note that certain UPS systems – most particularly the 600 VA which falls under the desk-type UPS systems, are included in the modified sinewave categories. Because computers only run off power inverters for short periods of time when power outages occur, they are far less likely to be damaged from modified wave forms.

For those that don’t know the difference – there are certain distinct advantages of pure sine wave power inverters over modified sine wave power inverters.

We make use of energy every single day of our lives and in every single aspect in a modern world. In South Africa electricity supply is barely keeping up with the pace and demand, and coal-fired power stations are experiencing issues plus they cause pollution in an already-polluted world.

But there is hope on the horizon, such as using and installing home solar systems, making use of the abundant sunshine we are so lucky to have.

The sun is a significant font of energy without which no life would be possible on Earth. The energy from the sun can be used to generate electricity in a more sustainable and pollutant-free process – more so than coal-fired power stations that are at present generating most of our energy.

But heating water through the use of solar power is certainly not new to man. The ancient Greeks, for example, were building houses in ways that the sun could heat them during cold winter months.

Solar or photovoltaic cells are specifically designed to capture the rays of the sun and directly convert them into electricity. Furthermore, solar cells have been used for many decades to provide power to satellites, too.

A solar cell consists of two thin plates made of a semi-conductive material such as silicon with a layer of chemicals on their surface and when sunlight falls on the cells, electrons are released from the silicon and they move over the layer of chemicals, generating an electric current.

South Africa has among the highest levels of sunshine in the world, but very little has been done to use its power to generate electricity. This is obviously cause for concern as scientists believe solar energy could become the only alternative when Earth’s fossil fuels are exhausted.

It has been predicted that more than 2.5 % of the world’s electricity needs will be provided by solar energy by 2015.

Installing home solar systems this summer is perhaps one of the most logical ways forward.

Solar Batteries Are Vital For the Function of Solar Panels

For individuals and businesses that are not too sure how Solar Power and Solar Panelswork, this guide will explain how it works.

Solar Panels, together with inverters produce power in proportion to the Solar Energy from the sun. This energy is then converted into electricity.

When appliances utilise power the Solar System subsidises this demand, and if the Solar System has excess then the surplus is exported to the utility grid.

Adding Solar Batteries to the equation means that you now have a place in which to store the surplus solar energy.

This excess energy is usually stored until it is need which is usually at night or on cloudy days when there is little solar input.

The inverter manages the flow of the power to ensure that you maximise the use of this free solar energy and don’t waste any surplus.

So in other words, a solar battery is in effect a storage unit where all the excess energy which is generated during sunshiny days is stored.

As far as Solar Batteries are concerned, there is never a one-size-fits-all scenario – but the best way moving forward is to ensure that your solar batteries are of a high quality.

Different solar batteries are used for varying purposes to ensure that the right product for the right application is used.

Lead Acid Batteries:

  • Because Lead Acid batteries contain large amounts of electrical energy, they are capable of discharging very quickly if any form of conductor is placed across their terminals.
  • Lead Acid batteries contain sulphuric acid which is corrosive.
  • Lead Acid batteries give off hydrogen when they are charged which when mixed with air, can become explosive and can even be ignited by a tiny spark, therefore handling these with caution is advisable.
  • Lead Acid cells have a minimal voltage of about 2 V – this is all depending on the state of charge.
  • A battery usually consists of several cells that are connected together in a series to produce sufficient Voltage – this is usually 12, 24 or 48 Volts.

Deep cycle cells:

A Deep Cycle Cells refers to a battery being charged with energy during sunny days.

Solar Batteries, as we have deduced, are therefore vital for the optimal function of Solar Systems.

Solar Regulators are also called Charge Controllers

A solar regulator (also referred to as a charge controller) is a small box that consists of solid state circuitry which is strategically placed between solar panels and the solar batteries.

The function of the solar regulator is to be utilised in conjunction with stand-alone systems that are off the grid or a grid-connected solar system that combines a backup battery bank.

For a grid-connected solar power system that does not make use of batteries, a solar regulator is not required.
Today’s technologically-advanced solar regulators are extremely efficient and will be able to out-strip any three-stage mains power battery chargers.
The function of a solar regulator include:

  • The primary function of the solar regulator is to regulate the incoming charge from the panel that flows into the deep cycle battery bank.
  • This is to prevent the batteries from becoming overcharged.
  • Regulators can also offer direct connectivity to appliances while recharging batteries.
  • This will bypass the battery bank although the batteries will be charged simultaneously.

How to choose your solar regulator:

  • First and foremost – it is important to check the amp ratings of your solar panels.
  • Once you have tallied up the figures, this should give you an idea of the minimum size charge controller required.
  • If you think your solar system will be added onto sometime in the future, it might be best to plan ahead for future growth.
  • This will save you money in the long term when adding more solar panels onto your system down the line.

Explaining low voltage disconnect:

Once the voltage drops below a certain point and they continue to draw power, this will cause untold battery damage.
Solar regulators should be equipped with LVD – Low Voltage Disconnect features to avoid damage.
LVD will monitor battery levels and will automatically disconnect the load that is connected to the battery if the voltage levels drop.
You need never maintain your solar regulator – although it might be a good idea to check the wire connections from time to time to ensure they are taut and free of corrosion.
It is also advisable to mount your solar regulator away from direct sunlight and heat where there is good air flow.
For safety purposes always ensure there is a suitable fuse between the solar panel and the solar regulator.
It is important to acquire a professional’s opinion before ordering any equipment.

Solar Panels power low cost housing in SA

It is no secret that South Africa faces an enormous challenge when it comes to housing its poor and supplying electricity to the many homes and businesses that are currently using power and those that are being built.

Although there are numerous initiatives under way, there is still a backlog of 2.3 million homes.

An integral part to the construction of newly-built homes – particularly RDP and low-cost housing, is the provision of basic services of which solar technology plays an essential role, as this is a cost-effective solution in providing energy to South Africa. Solar power assists the supply of electricity which is a vital part of supplying hot water and electricity to homes from right across the board.

About Solar Panels in South Africa:

Solar panels in South Africa and solar power remain the most popular type of renewable energy at present, because of the abundant amount of sunshine South Africa enjoys. Solar panels are both reliable and cost-effective, too, which makes this a popular alternative to power off the grid. Solar Panels produce electricity from photons which can be found in light radiation.

This translates into power even on days that are cloudy although the most electricity is produced on bright and sunny days. The initial cost of solar panels might seem high at first but over the long haul the benefits are numerous and soon will make up for the initial installation fees. Solar systems reduce CO2 levels which makes it an eco-friendly alternative.

Because solar technology is a type of renewable energy it means that it is sustainable and green; in other words,  it boasts being one of the most widely held forms of renewable energy in this country.

Did you know that most areas in South Africa enjoy in excess of 2 500 hours of sunshine annually?

The average solar levels range between 4.5 and 6.5 kWh/m2 daily – this is according to the DoE (the South African Department of Energy). This is compared to 150 W/m2 in certain parts of the USA, as well as in the region of 100 W/m2 for Europe and the United Kingdom.

The influences that usually affect the choice of solar equipment include how much power is required, what will be running off the solar system and how much the budget is for installing solar panels in South Africa.

Three of The Most Popular Batteries in South Africa Used for Solar

It is no secret that the type of battery used in solar applications have to perform an arduous job and need to meet the demands of heavy cycling, unstable power from the grid as well as irregular full recharging. There are different types of batteries that are used for the various applications and need to meet a broad spectrum of unique requirements. When looking at the different types of batteries for your solar power unit, there will always be a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration.

These usually include cost, cycle life as well as installation and maintenance.

Lead Acid Batteries
Lead acid batteries are often incorporated in renewable energy and is reliably used in off-the-grid solar energy applications; a battery that has been used for solar energy, spanning decades.
Lead acid batteries are typically deep cycle and cost almost half the price of lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are perhaps the most commonly used in storing technology, no matter the kind of application. These include three types – they are pouch batteries (tablets and smartphones), cylindrical batteries – used for power tools and prismatic,used in electric vehicles.

Flow Batteries
These include the Redox Flow Battery which are fast emerging as an alternative storage option.
The vanadium redox flow battery – also referred to as the VRFB is perhaps the fastest-emerging and technologically-advanced type of battery used in solar applications.
With so many options and different types of batteries to choose from for your solar, ensure you select the right one for your needs.

Solar panels
Solar Thermal Solutions for Energy Savings

The cost of electricity is exponential – and keeping the environment at home or at work pleasant to work in, plus ensuring that water is heated at all times could impact hugely on your utility bills.

In many instances energy saving solutions could prove to be a costly exercise and is very often not affordable by the man-in-the-street.

Perhaps one of the smartest solutions and most effective energy options is the use of solar energy for and the installation of solar thermal solutions for all those energy needs and requirements.

Heating up buildings and water could prove to be a massive source of energy consumption and hugely expensive – by installing solar panels and solar thermal solutions for heating will assist in saving energy and reducing enormous electricity bills.

About your solar thermal solutions:

Using solar thermal heating solutions is a wonderful resolution to heating water and keeping the environment warm at an affordable cost. This system captures the heat from the rays of the sun and uses it for heating water. The solar panels that are placed on the roof absorb the heat and will heat up the solution panels; in return, the solutions will be pumped into the cylinder to heat the water. By incorporating solar thermal solutions you will be able to fill most of your hot water requirements. Furthermore, your energy bills will be reduced dramatically through the installation and use of solar and solar thermal solutions.