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Category: solar panels

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Sizing considerations for a solar system

Designing a solar home system can be a challenging task, and even small mistakes can lead to significant issues down the road. Here are some tips on how to avoid mistakes when designing a solar home system:

1

Poor System Design (Under-estimating/Over-estimating energy needs)

A poorly designed solar home system can lead to performance issues and lower efficiency. Ensure that the system design is well thought out and includes all necessary components, including solar panels, inverters, batteries, and charge controllers. The design should also consider the system’s capacity, expected lifespan, and maintenance requirements.

One common mistake is to overestimate energy needs, leading to a system that is more expensive than necessary. Before designing the solar home system, calculate the average daily energy consumption to determine the appropriate size of the system. This can be done by reviewing energy bills, using an energy consumption calculator, or consulting with a solar professional.

 

2

Poor Panel Orientation

In the northern hemisphere, solar panels should ideally be installed face south, while in the southern hemisphere, they should face north. This is because the sun appears to move across the sky from east to west, so solar panels facing south (in the northern hemisphere) or north (in the southern hemisphere) will receive the most direct sunlight over the course of the day.

 

However, there may be other factors to consider as well, such as the angle of the roof and shading from nearby buildings or trees. A qualified solar installer can help you determine the best orientation for your specific situation and maximize the energy production of your solar panels.

3

Considering Autonomy Days

Solar home systems are designed to operate in a wide range of weather conditions, but extreme weather conditions can affect the system’s performance. When designing the system, consider the local climate and weather patterns and ensure the system is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions such as high winds, heavy snowfall, or hailstorms.

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Growth of solar energy in Kenya and its potential

It is almost a century since the modern solar cell was invented. Solar technology has been evolving since and it is now one of the most affordable and reliable sources of renewable energy in many rural parts of the developing world.

With the advent of the 21st century came the increased uptake of solar energy in Kenya. This coincided with the increased penetration of Mobile phones and surge in the number of middle-income Kenyans. Access to electricity became a necessity where each household required at least a charging point for their phones. Therefore, Solar became the main power option for many households and small businesses that were not connected to the grid. Today, Kenya has one of the highest solar power connections per capita in the developing world, just second to India.

Solar for productive use has also evolved over the years. Solar is now applied across a spectrum of applications ranging from water pumping, lighting, heating, ventilation and irrigation. The applications range from mega plants, with the largest plant in the world currently located in India with a capacity of 2,700 MW, to small PICO solar systems that use small light weight photovoltaic panels to generate power in a wide range of small and portable applications such as lanterns, shavers, incubators, amplifies etc.

 Despite the government efforts in rural electrification, almost 17 million Kenyans do not have access to any form of electricity. In addition, those with access are looking for other alternative sources of power due to the high cost and unreliability of the supply from Kenya power, the only power utility company in Kenya. Many have installed solar either as back up (to have power during power cuts) or to reduce their power costs. Particularly, industrial and huge commercial enterprises such as manufacturing companies, petrol stations and malls have embraced solar energy to reduce their power bills with some like Kenya Breweries opting to go completely off-grid in the next few years.

The government of Kenya has played some role, though ambivalent sometimes, in the growth of solar energy in Kenya. The government decision to remove duty and exempt VAT on solar equipment such as panels, batteries and controllers has played a major role in making solar power affordable to many Kenyans. Although the solar market in Kenya is largely driven by the private sector, the government has in the recent past embarked on large solar power plants that feed to the national grid. The Garissa solar power station with 55MW capacity is the largest grid-connected solar plant in East and Central Africa.

However, challenges still abound the solar sector which has limited the realization of its full potential. Some of the major challenges include;

1

Lack of access to finance- The initial cost of purchasing solar is still fairly high and many customers lack the finances to pay for the system upfront. The options available for financing solar are minimal with banks and other financial institutions shying away from coming up with products that target the solar market. To bridge the gap some solar companies are now offering PAYGO (Pay As You Go) financing model whereby a customer pays some deposit and the balance in installments over a period of time.

2

Lack of awareness- There is general lack of awareness, especially in rural areas, about the available solar options and their benefits. Increasing awareness will enable people to understand and make informed decisions. Currently, many people rely on user experience from people they interact with and if that experience is not good due to factors such as quality of equipment used or workmanship, the perception about solar may be distorted.

3

Skilled labor- There are no many experts in the solar sector. The Energy regulation requires only licensed technicians to design and install solar but most technicians are self-trained and operate without a license. This affects the quality of solutions that are offered to customers hence diminishing customer experience in using solar.

“Despite the aforementioned challenges, Solar energy will continue to play crucial role in providing clean energy to existing and future generations in Kenya.”