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Solar Energy Generation Systems – an overview by Specialized Solar Systems

Solar – a sensible long term investment

Solar energy generation systems enable your home or establishment to generate electrical power from the sun and are engineered by Specialized Solar Systems to provide many years of automatic operation without producing air emissions, noise pollution or requiring fuel or extensive mechanical maintenance.

A solar energy system is a great long-term investment with energy cost savings, energy security, and a positive environmental impact. This information has been formulated by Specialized Solar Systems to help assist you with your solar energy system choice and upkeep.

Benefits of solar generated electricity:

Environmental protection and reduced pollution

  • Solar energy uses sunlight to generate clean renewable energy. The power produced by a solar energy system displaces the need for conventional energy generation. It is estimated that every kW of installed photovoltaic or PV generation prevents 6 350kg of CO2 (associated with global warming) and 13kg of NOX (a source of smog) during its lifetime.

Reduced Utility Bills

  • Every kWh generated by a solar system means less energy required from the national grid and lower electricity bills.

Autonomy from the Instability of Eskom (utility)

  • The installation of a solar energy system affords one partial to complete autonomy from the services provided by national utility supply. Traditional and grid electricity supply is slowly being eradicated with the use of renewable energy.

Types of Solar Power Systems

When choosing a solar system one should understand the three main configurations of systems available in order to achieve adequate energy supply when and where it is required. The three main system configurations available can be summarized as follows:

GRID-TIED SOLAR GENERATION SYSTEM

Grid-tied solar systems also known as grid-tie, supply or supplement PV generated solar energy directly into your load or energy usage. If more power is required than what the solar panels or modules can produce, the additional power requirement is drawn from the utility grid.

At night or during periods of low sunlight when the solar modules do not produce enough power results in the required power draw being supplied from utility grid power. This system requires grid power to ensure it completes its function at all times. In the event of grid failure, the system will stop providing energy.

Grid-tied solar system configuration is the most economical and ideally suited to reduce or supplement one’s load especially when used during daylight hours. The grid-tied load is reduced during the day in the form of a bell curve as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.

A typical Grid tied bell curve chart
Above image: A typical Grid tied bell curve chart

HYBRID SOLAR GENERATION SYSTEM

A hybrid solar system combines both grid-tied and off-grid solar systems. A hybrid solar system, therefore, does not necessarily require grid electricity to stay operational. Hybrid solar systems can be programmed to function as a grid-tie system, supplying a full bell curve during the day, whilst charging a smaller battery storage bank for energy supply or backup in the event of grid failure during the night.

A Hybrid solar system design takes into consideration the energy consumed during a 24-hour period cycle. Within the design specification, battery storage is utilised to supply power at night, while the sun generates energy for the load during the day.

Hybrid solar systems have many programmable functions and each feature is specially tailored by Specialized Solar Systems engineers to fulfill our customer’s energy needs, ensuring the best efficiencies for the hybrid solar system is achieved. Each system also offers remote functionality.

When supplying an energy system to your premises there could be feedback from your system to the municipal grid. Certain legislation needs to be adhered to.

OFF-GRID SOLAR GENERATION SYSTEM


An off-grid solar system is not connected to the electricity grid and requires energy storage. Off-grid solar systems must be designed correctly in order to generate enough power throughout the year and have the necessary battery capacity to meet the installed locations electrical energy requirements or demand.

Above image: A typical off-grid solar system configuration

An off-grid solar system design takes into consideration the total energy consumed during a time period cycle. Within the design specification, battery storage is utilized to supply power at night, while the sun generates energy for the load during the day. Generally,  an off-grid solar system sizing or specifications are based on your daily wattage usage and peak Wh requirement. Daily watt-hour usage can normally be calculated from your utility bill or over a 24 hr time-period but may require more accurate and longer usage pattern monitoring with energy metering data loggers.

COMPONENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION

Your energy system consists of various components. Most of these components are there to ensure that the energy produced by the solar panels is utilized within the designed framework.

Your system might consist of the following components (depending on your system design):

PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV) PANELS

Solar modules are either roof-mounted or ground-mounted. During daylight hours, the solar modules instantly convert sunlight into DC (direct current) electrical energy. Modules are connected in series, delivering enough DC voltage to operate the inverter.

The number of modules will depend on the size of your system and, collectively, they are known as the solar array. This solar array will generate energy for 25 years at 80% of the initial capacity.

The DC current (amps) output of a solar module is directly proportional to sunlight intensity. Output varies with sun angle, shadows and shading – all of which can greatly impact electricity output. It is most efficient to have solar panels facing North (in the Southern hemisphere) at the optimal angle for the area. The lower the angle, the more efficient in Summer, the higher the angle the better in Winter. These limits will be determined based on the area of installation. (Please refer to your installer to ensure this has been done correctly.) Since the production of energy is what you are paying for, one needs to ensure that the maximum yearly kWh is produced by inclining the panels correctly.

Please ensure that you understand the expected kWh production and how to monitor this. The installer will assist you in explaining this.

In South Africa the production of kWh varies between 3.5 and 6.2 kWh per 1000Wp installed. This variation is caused due to Summer|Winter weather conditions, and the area of installation.

grid-tied, hybrid, maintenance, off-grid

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