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Interviews with the iShack Project SS20 Users

Interviews with iShack Clients (DC Micro-grid users)  2014

Specialized Solar Systems is involved as the primary supplier of DC micro-grids for the iShack Project that is providing mass renewable energy electricity, on a pay-for-use basis, to residents of an informal settlement in Stellenbosch (Enkanini), South Africa using only solar energy. The off-grid system that is supplied, the SS20 DC Micro-grid baseline smartbox, uses advance technologies with build in remote management and is produced by Specialized Solar Systems. Basically,  the end-users (customers) of these off-grid DC micro-grid energy producing systems, are allocated payment packages for energy usage. This is all managed remotely by Specialized Solar Systems web-based management platform, SSS-EPOWER, which is an advance remote energy management utility that has  proven to be a very effective tool in off-grid energy management (more to come on SSS-EPOWER).

The project aims to provide the service to over 1500 clients. They are training a group of local franchisees called "iShack Agents" to install and maintain the solar systems and to market the service in their community. The clients pay a monthly fee for the service to ensure long term operational sustainability. The energy service provides lighting, television, cell-phone charging and additional energy for music, dvd players and radios. The utility is scalable and in future, fridges and water heaters will be added.

This project is using solar electricity to demonstrate how ecologically sound technologies can be used appropriately to incrementally upgrade slums and at the same time build local enterprising capacity within the community. This enterprise development model recognises the significant existing social, human and physical capital within slums. A key objective of the iShack business model is to harness this existing capital to unlock a range of social and economic benefits and development opportunities for the community. Our vision goes far beyond simply providing clean, safe and affordable energy. Other technologies and services that can be incorporated into the model include off-grid sanitation, ecological housing, water services and food production.

In May 2014 Nobelusi Kenyana and Gwendolyne Meyer interviewed and photographed (with their permission) a group of iShack Clients on their experiences of the iShack Solar electricity service since joining the iShack Project. The clients were interviewed by Nobelusi in isiXhosa and this document is the transcript of five interviews translated by her into English.

Photography: ©gwendolynmeyer2014


 
Interview 1:


1.   How are you finding the systems
“I find that solar is very helpful to me, because in many things it prevents my kids from vagabonding - wandering up and down the community. Like for instance my children like to watch programmes like ‘Generations’, so now I think in that case it has really helped me a lot in that regard, because now we sit in one place”.

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Off-Grid Installation - Theunissen, Orange Free State

Specialized Solar Systems recently installed an off-grid solar energy system in Theunissen, in the Orange Free State, Republic of South Africa. The off-grid system installation boasts a 9000 watt panel array supplying on average 46Kwh per day. The system has been designed to produce the bulk of its energy during daylight hours with minimal usage during the night.

By first doing a thorough site evaluation and load analysis Specialized Solar Systems implemented the energy savings principles. Detailed usage analysis allowed us to reduce the total capital cost of the system and enabled us to implement the off grid system well within the clients original budget.

Specialized Solar Systems' team of renewable energy experts installed 3 x 5kw 48v Victron inverters with 3 x 70/150 Victron MPPT's, 36 x 300 watt  panels  and a 48 volt, 1380 amp hour battery bank.

The off-grid energy system is a 3 phase, 5KVA per phase daily usage 46Kwh per day. 30Kwh is designated for daytime usage whilst 16Kwh is available overnight from battery storage, cycling the batteries at 25% usage.
 
The owner, Oom Manie,  thoroughly enjoys being  self-reliant by producing his own dairy, meat, water and now off-grid electrical energy as well. The farm has removed its Eskom transformer, thus eliminating any feed from the national grid. The farm will utilize a diesel Generator as back up as and when required in the event that additional KW capacity is needed or if the battery state of charge drops below safe levels.

Oom Manie is now completely independent from Eskom grid power.

Equipment used for the off-grid installation:

  • 3x Victron Multiplus 48V 5KVA inverter/ Chargers
  • 3x Victron 150/70 amp Solar Mppt’s
  • 24x 1380 a/h 2V Millenium solar cells
  • 1x Victron BMV 700 Battery Monitor
  • 36 x 300 Watt Solar Panels mounted by means of a Rail Mount Panel mounting system.

For further info with regards to off-grid energy producing systems, please contact one of Specialized Solar Systems renewable energy experts at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Namibian High Commission in Botswana 50Kw 3-Phase Solar Powered System

The Namibian High Commission in Botswana recently acquired a Primary Solar secondary utility power energy system with battery back-up to supply their offices.

The Solar System designed and installed for the Namibian High Commission in Botswana was developed to supply primary 50Kw 3-Phase renewable power to adequately supply their offices power requirements. If their offices consume all the alternative energy generated power, the system will automatically switch over to grid utility mains power.

The battery installation designed and installed will accommodate for unforeseen power outages making the solar driven system also act as a automated back-up system supplying power when utility power is unavailable. Specialized Solar Systems was tasked with the design and installation of this solar energy system.

The 50Kw 3-Phase Solar Powered system comprises of the following components:

  • 10 800Watt Array of Solar Modules
  • Flooded Deep Cycle Millennium Solar 2V Battery Bank in Crates
  • 15Kw 3-Phase Inverter/Chargers
  • 210Amp Maximum Power Point Tracking capability
  • Victron Blue Power Color Control Interface
  • Battery Monitoring System

This Alternative Energy project took little over a week to complete with on-site technical renewable energy installation training also being conducted for Specialized Solar Systems Botswana division.

For further information on off-grid and grid support renewable solar energy powered systems,  please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Oudtshoorn 15KWH installation

This off-grid solar system with backup generator and grid-support, produces 5kw-15kw electrical output and was recently installed in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.


The installation components consisted of 24 x 2V deep cycle cells, 1 x 5KW 48V Victron inverter charger, 100 amp MPPT and battery monitor.


The roof contains 15 large solar panels with a rail mount bracket system. This rail mount system uses minimal screws to the roof and can be installed on tiles or corrugated iron. The rails use a clamp method to fasten the panels onto the roof.


The system has a cross over 3 pole switch to enable the client to change from Eskom back up to Generator back up in the event of emergencies.
For further information on off-grid and grid support systems contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.