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OVERVIEW

 

DC MICROGRID TECHNOLOGY IS THE ANSWER

On Wednesday 16 November a miracle happened in Sedgefield. Not a major, thunder-flashing miracle that would make national headlines, in fact many folks might not consider it a miracle at all.  But it was to Goodman Mbana, and his family.

It was the miracle of light.

A large portion of the residents of Smutsville Sizamile have been desperately waiting for electrification for many years. Some have even embarked on service delivery marches, not asking for better service, but for ANY service at all.  When the sun goes down they have to rely on the dull glow of paraffin lamps or candles, and watching TV is obviously not an option. This aside from the sharing of toilets between several families and having no direct access to water.

 

 

 

Specialized Solar Systems (SSS), being a local company in George, has for a period of six months been co-operating with a Sedgefield based NGO called SANCO. The purpose has been to demonstrate that a complete home electrification system that is powered by alternative energy, can be installed in a matter of minutes, and provides a long term solution. A solar panel and a battery drive what is called the DC Microgrid system that provides lights and a cell phone charger- this is the basic system. What distinguishes this system from others is that it has the ability to accommodate additional appliances such as a TV and DVD, a laptop charger, and even a fridge if solar and battery capacity is also extended. All these appliances can easily plug into the basic system, and they all operate on a 12volt current.

This means that nobody will be endangered or shocked by the system that is ideally suited for installation at informal settlements. Indeed this DC Microgrid system was donated and installed last year, as reported in the local Sedgefield Edge of 16 November – at the home of local Fundiso Mbana. The purpose of the installation was to verify that the DC Microgrid could indeed live up to its claims, which it indeed has done! We had trouble free operation, replaced one bulb, and have a happy customer.

On Friday 30 Mar2012, an open day meeting was held with the Sedgefield residents as advertised in the Edge(Please view all editorial tabs), to invite any employers or sponsors to view a sample DC Microgrid with all its capabilities, with the view of sponsoring or donating such a system for their employees.

The progress of this project can be summarised follows:

  1. The DC Microgrid is now a well proven sustainable solution for informal settlements. It is a viable energisation solution to grid failed rural, urban and peri-urban communities in South Africa, Africa and even the rest of the world.
  2. Fundiso and many others regard the DC microgrid systemas an ideal easy to install solution that takes only 45 minutes to set up.
  3. The public of Sedgefield  have come out in support of the idea and would like to see this plan put to action now, instead of waiting another 3-4 years(who knows) for grid electrification. Currently the residents have been PROMISED electrification and basic services for 11 years now.
  4. The residents of Sedgefield that are also ratepayers, do not think it is fair to pay their taxes and then fund services again personally. They believe this job should be done by the local municipality – and it should happen immediatly.
  5. The fact that Specialized Solar Systems have developed a pre-paid metering and other management control option on their DC microgrid systems would facilitate a return on investment on these systems, makes a community roll-out even more feasible.
  6. The Sedgefield community are now desperate for electrification and have explored all possible avenues to achieve this, even asking for public donations!


 “ Please take action - put the machine into gear to deliver the basic services promised by national government!”

 

 

 

EDGE Publication

 

LET THERE BE LIGHT  (Edge Newspaper Publication 7 Dec )


On Wednesday 16 November a miracle happened in Sedgefield. Not a major, thunder-flashing miracle that would make national headlines, in fact many folks might not consider it a miracle at all.  But it was to Goodman Mbana, and his family.

It was the miracle of light.

LET-THERE-BE-LIGHTA large portion of the residents of Smutsville Sizamile have been desperately waiting for electrification for many years. Some have even embarked on service delivery marches, not asking for better service, but for ANY service at all.  When the sun goes down they have to rely on the dull glow of paraffin lamps or candles, and watching TV is obviously not an option. This aside from the sharing of toilets between several families and having no direct access to water.

But the problem seems insurmountable to the local authorities.  ESKOM has its own supply dilemma and the municipality is understandably unwilling to lay down cables to serve informal dwellings.  Promises of basic services have been used by the politicians of all parties to sway voters but delivery seldom materializes. For many it seems there is no hope, no light at the end of the tunnel.

But now there is hope, and light  this is what brought tears to Goodman's eyes that Wednesday evening. According to Gerhard Olivier of Special Solar Systems,  technology has moved so fast that previously unaffordable solar power is now within reach of the man on the street, and local government.  Indeed the team at the George-based company is so convinced of this that they installed a DC Microgrid system in Goodman's home for free, as a gift.   It took less than an hour to set it all up, and hey presto, there was light! Two inside bulbs, an outside motion sensor spotlight a cell phone charger socket, a TV and a DVD player. This may not seem like much to some readers but to Goodman it was a wow moment! And all these appliances were run off a 12v battery powered by solar PV panels.

Special Solar Systems believe that this is a sustainable solution to the electricity crisis. “It has taken years to develop this model, with the greatest challenge being to offer it at an affordable price,” said Olivier. The end product has met that challenge, it seems. Made on the Garden Route, using local semi-skilled staff,  the basic system (three lights and a cell phone socket) costs R3200 fully installed. From there on the add-ons, such as extra lights, the TV and DVD player, a fridge, even a sewing machine, can be bought also at comparatively low prices as the home owner can afford them.

Olivier explained how this solar power system differs to earlier models which were not only far more expensive but also far less efficient.
“Whereas in previous years the inclination was to 'collect' solar power in batteries and convert it from DC to AC to suit modern appliances, this entire system is based on DC technology, which means far less power is used,” he said, pointing out that the appliances used with the system are all 12V DC.

When members of the local community saw how quickly this system was set up, and the difference it made in Goodman's home, they were keen on hearing more, and understandably impressed that the cost was not out of reach. Indeed various community leaders have asked for a meeting with the company to look at the possibilities of 'spreading the light' to include more homes, perhaps finacing the installation on a pay as you go basis. This is just what Special Solar Systems have in mind for the various communities they are already involved in, including Thembalethu, rural Limpopo, rural Eastern Cape and Willowmore to name a few.
They also see an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to be trained so that they can set up a solar base station in their own neighborhoods, from which they can provide service to those who have installed solar power systems.

“They will be able to offer advice, monitor battery charge state, and perhaps even sell and install the add ons such as extra lights, DC radios and fridges,” says Olivier.
Because the systems are not connected to any form of grid, they can be moved and used anywhere the owners wish to re-install them. This means that those in rented or informal housing can set up a system without fear of losing it if and when they move.

When the cost of electrifying a home via the ESKOM grid is calculated, the initial outlay must surely go into the thousands, this aside from the monthly tariffs and the associated cost of collecting them.  Furthermore with a national call to conserve power (well at least that of the National grid) it stands to reason that the DC Microgrid or similar systems may well be something local or provincial government might grab with both hands, and thus provide miracles for others like Goodman Mbana.

 

 

EDGE Publication 2

 

CALL TO HELP THOSE NEEDING POWER (Edge Newspaper Publication 21 March)

 

Sedgefield residents interested in being part  of a project  that could bring solar electricity to many of the homes in Smutsville Sizamile are invited to attend an open day on Friday 30 March at Scarab Village, Sedgefield.

At this event, which will run from 11am to 3pm, folks will be shown various options of solar power systems which can be installed in informal housing, and run at exceptionally low cost in comparison to normal Eskom electricity. Even the most basic set up - a few inside lights, a cell phone charger and perhaps an external  motion  sensor  light  - can make a huge difference to a family living in darkness, and it is hoped that when folks realise the affordability of such a system, they may consider assisting such a family.

img 1208The open day is the initiative of a partnership between SANCO and Specialized Solar Systems. They plan  to  provide information regarding the systems, prices and proposed  institutional  structure and give interested visitors the opportunity   to   register   their contact details. The aim is to find enough   sponsors   to   provide twenty   or  more   basic   solar lighting units into needy homes. Thereafter the project will be run by   an   Ener gy   S teering Committee (ESC) consisting of representatives of SANCO, Specialized Solar Systems and local residents.

Whilst there are ongoing negotiations with the municipality for the provision of the basic services - including electricity - to the residents of the poorer areas, it is believed that there is no quick solution to connecting informal settlements to the national power grid. Hence a quicker solar solution assisted by the private sector seems to be the far better option.
 
Anyone interested is welcome to attend the open day, enjoy  a cup of tea or coffee, find out more about solar power and discover how they can really assist in making a better greater Sedgefield for all.
 
For  more  details  phone  Carl Lamprecht on 07282417030728241703

 

 

 

The EDGE Pubication 3

 

SMUTSVILLE-SIZAMILE SOLAR POWER PROJECT- YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE (Edge Newspaper Publication 4 April 2012)

 

Have you ever considered living without electricity? Without  light at night for your children to study in?  Many still live this way, and  will have to continue to do so unless the community starts thinking ‘out of   the   box’. If you are interested in making a difference, even if it is for just one particular family (perhaps a staff member?), then please read on. Making a huge change for the better may actually be easier than you think!

SMUTSVILLE-SIZAMILE SOLAR POWER PROJECTA recent SANCO survey in Sedgefield’s Smutsville and Sizamile revealed that, of the 127 households in the Onderste- Gaatjie informal suburb, 41 families have lived there from more than the 15 years without basic services.  The average residency of the households was thirteen years in Die Gaatjie and seven years in Slangepark. Almost all households indicated that they were interested in solar energy.

In an attempt to relieve the plight of these households, SANCO decided to initiate a project to assist the most needy and longest standing households in the informal areas to obtain safer power in their homes, whilst awaiting  either  a  larger , government-funded project, or eventual   provision   of   formal'RDP' housing elsewhere in the area.

For this reason SANCO teamed up with Specialized Solar Systems  and  work-shopped  a way forward. The result is a project which encourages the involvement of all sectors of the community: Here are   a few questions and answers which will hopefully enlighten you!

1. Who is SANCO?  SANCO is a non-racial, non-sexist, independent and unitary civic movement; its policies are determined by its membership and structures. SANCO is registered as a Section 21 company. The local branch of SANCO in Smutsville-Sizamile has an executive committee which includes people from a broad spectrum of groupings in the wider Sedgefield community.

2. Who is Specialized Solar Systems?  Specialized Solar Systems (SSS) is a registered company with its head office in George, which designs and assembles solar power solutions for South African conditions.  In fact, several of the people working at SSS live in Sedgefield.  SSS installs solar powered  systems  for  a  wide range of applications, but has a vision to provide safe, affordable energy solutions to the millions of peri-urban and rural households in South Africa who have been living without electricity  for  some  time  and have little or no prospect of receiving such services in the foreseeable future. SSS has been working with academic institutions such as the Sustainability Institute at Stellenbosch University and the Saasveld Campus of NMMU to test and fine-tune its product range.

3.  Why are they involved in this venture?  - After service delivery protests in Sedgefield in 2011, the owner of Specialised Solar Services in  George mentioned that he would like to meet the leader of the community organization that led the march, in line with SSS's philosophy of engaging communities when working with them. Soon afterwards, a meeting with thelocal SANCO leaders was arranged.   In order to expedite the process of providing solar energization systems to long- standing informal households in Smutsville-Sizamile, SANCO proposed that private donors be sought to fund systems whilst funding for a larger pilot project was sought and/or awaited.

4.  Why the SSS System? The solar energization system offered by SSS has been developed specifically for the informal and rural housing context.   It runs entirely at a safe 12 volts DC with specific energy-efficient appliances which do not require an inverter.    The system is designed to provide enough energy   storage   to   tide   the consumer over a period of two to three cloudy or rainy days.  The system does not need to be replaced when additional appliances are purchased, extra panels and batteries can be connected to the existing system as and when additional appliances require it.  The SSS system is more than just a product, it is an economically sustainable model.   The model requires a dedicated person from the community to be trained (by SSS) in the installation and maintenance of the systems. This
p e r s o n    ( t h e    E - S p a z a Operator/ESO) will also activate a nominal 'pre-paid' operation on the system, as well as sell add-ons for the systems, which will provide employment and an income stream for the ESO.

5. Why should I sponsor a system?  By sponsoring a system, you will be bringing about a substantial improvement to the quality of life of a household in your town.   The project does not envisage encouraging informal settlement, but providing home energization to households who have lived without electricity for many years in Smutsville-Sizamile, and who have little prospect of receiving mains electricity in the foreseeable future.    By sponsoring a system, you may be enabling a learner to do homework in the evenings, learn from educational programmes on radio and TV, eat food which has been kept fresh by refrigeration, and  perhaps even use a laptop computer for the first time, as well as have meals cooked safely without the hazards of a paraffin stove.
 

6. There  are  small solar powered lighting kits which can be purchased from hardware shops for less than  R1 000, so why does this system cost over R5 000?
The answer to this lies in the fact that the SSS system is not just a lighting kit, but a basis for full home energization, and is capable of running additional lights and a radio as well as (with additional panel/s and battery/ies) a colour TV, DVD player, fridge, fan, laptop computer, and eventually a dedicated microwave oven or slow cooker (the latter are in the process of testing).  The pre-paid control function also adds to the cost of the system, and is required in order for the wider economic benefits of the system installation to be achieved (as in 4 above).

7. How does the sponsorship work?  Once you have decided to sponsor a system, you should contact us with your details, and the number of systems or amount you would be prepared to sponsor.  When sufficient system sponsorship commitment has been received you will be contacted by SSS and notified of the name and address of the recipient/s for which your system has been nominated.  An invoice for the system will be issued, and, on payment of the committed amount, the system will be installed.   Photographs will be taken and forwarded to you for your record, and, if you so wish, you may attend the installation and/or have your company logo displayed at the installation. Thereafter, if you wish, you can be kept informed of the status of the sponsored system, e.g. if and when it is upgraded, etc.

To be part of the project, or if you have further questions, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Alternatively please contact SANCO representative Carl Lamprecht on 072 824 1703072 824 1703.

 

 

 

Summary

 

THE HISTORY OF SANCO–SSS PARTNERSHIP IN SMUTSVILLE-SIZAMILE

THE HISTORY OF SANCO–SSS PARTNERSHIP IN SMUTSVILLE-SIZAMILE

A chance meeting between two friends in Sedgefield led to a powerful partnership between a local community-based organization and a business entity able to assist it in meeting part of its mandate to its community.

After service delivery protests in Sedgefield in 2011, the owner of Specialised Solar Services in George mentioned to an associate that he would like to meet the leader of the community organization that led the march, in line with SSS’s philosophy of engaging communities when working with them. Soon afterwards, that associate had coffee with a local resident, who, it turned out, had been working with SANCO in Smutsville-Sizamile, and the associate stayed on for a meeting with the local SANCO leaders. At the meeting he described the solar powered systems which SSS was developing and a meeting was set up for the following week, at which the owner of SSS demonstrated the systems.

At this meeting on 7 November 2011, it was agreed that SSS would attend a SANCO meeting in Smutsville and demonstrate one of its systems, and, further, that a demonstration system would be installed in an informal dwelling in Sizamile to show people how well it works.

THE HISTORY OF SANCO–SSS PARTNERSHIP IN SMUTSVILLE-SIZAMILE

f-bulb

The system, a ‘DC Microgrid’ designed and assembled in George, was installed in the dwelling of Mfundo ‘Goodman’ Mbana on 16 November 2011, and has been providing him with safe low voltage power ever since. The systems has two interior lights (with switches), an outside motion sensor floodlight, a 40cm colour TV and an amplified aerial, as well as a DVD player. The system has run without problems, except that during February the lights fused during a heavy storm, and they were repaired and replaced.

The purpose of the installation was to demonstrate to the community that the system was not a cheap ‘two-day wonder’, but a sustainable solution for lighting and information/ entertainment.

 
In late November, SANCO undertook, at its own expense, a survey of informal households in two areas of Smutsville-Sizamile, Onderste-Gaatjie and Slangpark. This revealed that the average tenure of the households was 13 years in Onderste-Gaatjie and 7 years in Slangpark. Almost all households indicated that they were interested in solar energy.


At the request of SANCO, SSS submitted a proposal in December 2011 to Knysna Municipality for a pilot project of 100 system installations in Smutsville-Sizamile, and in February 2012 SSS was invited to present the proposal to Knysna Council’s Planning & Economic Development Committee.

In order to expedite the process of providing solar energization systems to long-standing informal households in Smutsville-Sizamile, SANCO proposed that private donors be sought to fund systems whilst funding for a larger pilot project was sought and/or awaited. After revision of SSS’s proposal, it was decided to hold an open day for potential donors to see the systems in operation, and to find out more details about the project.


AFTER 11 YEARS OF WAITING MFUNDISO MBANA IS A HAPPY MAN

AFTER 11 YEARS OF WAITING MFUNDISO MBANA IS A HAPPY MAN


THE INSTALLED DC MICROGRID SYSTEM

  • Safe low voltage power
  • Completely off-grid
  • 2 Interior lights
  • Outside motion sensor flood light
  • 40cm colour TV
  • DVD Player


THE RESULT (5 months down the road)

  • A sustainable solution for lighting and entertainment
  • The ability to study at night
  • No need for candles, better lighting when cooking, reducing fire risk
  • Safety when returning home after dark (his wife works late shift)
  • The opportunity to share information & entertainment with others
  • No need to carry batteries for recharging
  • Free cell phone charging
  • The possibility of upgrading the system to power a fridge

 

ed-fundisos-house


THE CURRENT SITUATION

  • Many people have lived in the community forever a decade without power
  • Some households have illegal electrical connections which are dangerous & expensive
  • The danger of shack fires is always present
  • It may still take years for mains electricity to reach many households
  • Solar power has advanced substantially in the last few years
  • It is now possible to provide solar energization for most household purposes

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

  • Sponsor a DC Microgrid System today

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

  • Locals helping locals
  • Make your community a better and safer place
  • Help improve young learners’ educational situation
  • An opportunity to get involved in your wider community
  • Contribute to a more sustainable society

 

The progress of this project can be summarised follows:

  1. The DC Microgrid is now a well proven sustainable solution for informal settlements. It is a viable energisation solution to grid failed rural, urban and peri-urban communities in South Africa, Africa and even the rest of the world.
  2. Fundiso and many others regard the DC microgrid systemas an ideal easy to install solution that takes only 45 minutes to set up.
  3. The public of Sedgefield  have come out in support of the idea and would like to see this plan put to action now, instead of waiting another 3-4 years(who knows) for grid electrification. Currently the residents have been PROMISED electrification and basic services for 11 years now.
  4. The residents of Sedgefield that are also ratepayers, do not think it is fair to pay their taxes and then fund services again personally. They believe this job should be done by the local municipality – and it should happen immediatly.
  5. The fact that Specialized Solar Systems have developed a pre-paid metering and other management control option on their DC microgrid systems would facilitate a return on investment on these systems, makes a community roll-out even more feasible.
  6. The Sedgefield community are now desperate for electrification and have explored all possible avenues to achieve this, even asking for public donations!

 “ Please take action - put the machine into gear to deliver the basic services promised by national government!”

 

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Posted in: Rural Electrification