Balancing the Power of Renewable Energy
Many publications have been presented to address the need for electrification in areas without mainstream energy supply. The problems and obstacles in this process have been well documented. Traditional methods of power generation have come under severe criticism due to the impact on the environment. On the other hand, renewable energy supply is still suffering from the long-standing criticism of being too expensive, and that the storage methods of this supply are inadequate. Due to the aforementioned, a new form of Renewable Energy encompassing affordable costing and sustainability had to be developed.
Electrification vs. Energisation
Specialized Solar Systems (SSS) has been involved in the electrical engineering (design, installation, automation and energy supply) for the past 23 years. They have in-house engineers in all fields of electrical energy supply. Whilst the focus remained on the supply of grid connection, or lack thereof, a series of alternative solutions evolved. This gave rise to the birth of a renewable division that now creates systems that are viable, affordable and sustainable – the need for answers accelerated our process. Developing alternatives was done in close cooperation with the Sustainable Institute at the University of Stellenbosch, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The stage was set for a National Solution.
Two basic problems emerged. 1) In areas where grid connection was achieved, the cost to the consumer makes the use of electricity a burden instead of a blessing. 2) Alternative solutions were scaled down to a temporary inferior set of products without taking the needs of the recipients into account. Realistically, the system was doomed to failure. Economic development and the ability to service all the needs were not the criteria the product was designed around. Needless to say, discontentment arose amongst the recipients.
It has, therefore, become apparent that more electrification is needed based on a different set of rules to address the core issues. The SSS energization process has developed a series of options in the form of DC Microgrid Technology which would address both the practical and social needs of the consumer. The focus of this technology was to formulate it for a wider spectrum of needs (Rural, Peri-Urban, and Urban) with affordable costing in mind utilizing the existing inhabitants to manage their own serviceability.
The last 24 months have shown us that the majority of people have the power to change governments and force a democratic rule not fearing the consequences, leading to a greater emphasis on the supply of serviceability. COP 17 has emphasized the use of Renewable Energy and the need to reduce our Carbon Footprint. The DC Microgrid Technology offers a sustainable solution with the above in mind.
- The solution needs to be academically approved
- The Solution needs to be sustainable
- Ownership of the solution needs to be transferred to the recipients
- Capitalisation and returns need to be formulated within the Implementation process e) The full social and financial improvements must be for the benefit of the recipients
- Proven technologies must be utilized
- Implementation must be immediate without bureaucratic delays
- The effect must be in conjunction with and approved by the social leadership structure
- The effect must be micro-managed
The Birth of a new paradigm for Energisation of 600 Million
Someone must take the initiative to facilitate the training of a new generation implementing an energization process based on alternative principles. The mainstream suppliers of energy found it not viable to do so. Various Training Modules have been pioneered by SSS, training the unskilled to manage this process.
Numerous prototypes have been installed throughout South Africa and Africa to test these principles supported by South African Academic Institutions without any financial gain. This has shown great potential for growth and created eager optimism that this paradigm does work. See photo below (various reports available).
With the pressure on energy supply worldwide and the growth in technology, the tables were turned. The sense of reverting to DC principles became apparent and the need arose for Micro Generation, providing support to low energy use equipment and appliances. This train of thought was pursued with a vigorous research and development program that resulted in a series of DC solutions that were rolled out. After testing this in the field the recorded data results proved astonishing.
Some advantages of DC over AC
- Uses less power for the same results as that of AC
- Reduce capital costs (installations)
Eliminates power factor correction
- Falls within legislation for the unskilled to be trained (under 50 Volt)
- It is a safe form of power (under 50 Volt)
A comprehensive protocol document has been formulated for implementing the DC application concentrating on baseline requirements, social impact, effecting empowering structures and economic empowerment of installed areas. This document will highlight in sequence the following.
- Mandate that identifies the area of need within the energization process which cannot be electrified by normal means
- A specialist team is formulated with an academic background from local universities, municipalities, sponsors or training institutes
- Specialized Solar Systems to determine the baseline system needed
- The cultural leadership of the area is included in the process
A preliminary scoping is undertaken by this specialist team which would lead to:
- What are the primary energization and the secondary energization needs to be implemented?
- This would lead to the identification of leaders in the community that would be trained to effect the energization process.
Leading to a summary of:
- Infrastructure development
- Skills transfer
- Economic development
A training mechanism is formulated at which time the identified trainers could be sent to the Sustainable Institute at the Stellenbosch University for training or could be facilitated at a training base in the area of implementation. This training would encompass the following:
- Basic Electricity
- Management Procedures
- General Economic Management
- Long-term Economic Development
Formulation of the Energy Steering Committee (The steering committee needs to have cultural representation)
A long-term support structure formulated for:
- Facilitate the future growth of the areas (secondary energization)
- The implementation of water pumping, water filtration refrigeration, communication within the DC paradigm
- The development of a stock pool supporting these structures
- Long-term maintenance procedures
Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. We have the ability as a team in South Africa to energize those areas so desperately in need. Developing Home Grown Technology, using local residents paving the way for the rest of the world to see that it is possible to energize 600 million homes in Africa.
© 2012 Specialized Solar Systems – All Rights Reserved. Please contact us for further information.
As appeared in Municipal Focus March 2012 issue