Living off Grid in Magboro

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Our Client Mr. Sotonye came to our office today. He has been our client since February of 2014. For the last 8 months he has been living off the grid. He has power 24/7, does normal things, like pump water, toast bread, do laundry, power his AC, run his freezer, iron his clothes and once powered his hot water heater. He started with 1 Kw and his existing batteries and a 4 kw Inverter. He replaced his batteries with 8 Trojan L16 flooded batteries and a 60 amp MPPT charge controller.

He upgraded when he moved to Magboro. From 1 KW to 4 KW in panels. He has a diesel generator for back up on days when the sun does not shine to top up his batteries. He averages 4 hours every 2 weeks during really bad days of no or minimal sunshine.

Watch the video to learn more.

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Introduction to Solar Electricity

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Solar Electricity does not have to be complicated. However, becoming a PV system owner does require a basic level of understanding. This article is a good place to start.

We also offer seminars and hands-on workshops when you are ready for the next step!

Solar Electricity

When people think about alternative or renewable energy, the first image that comes to mind is often large blue or black solar panels on rooftops or portable highway signs that have a small panel attached. These solar panels, also known as photovoltaic modules (or PV modules), convert sunlight into electricity, and they have been the backbone of renewable energy for decades. The Photovoltaic Effect (how sunlight is converted into electrical energy) was discovered over a hundred years ago! Yet widespread implementation of this technology has been very gradual. Only in very recent years has photovoltaics gained wide popularity as an alternative way to produce electricity.

In 1958 the first PV modules were launched into space to power satellites. Even today, solar power is the primary source of energy at the International Space Station. On Earth as well, PV has traditionally been used in areas where there is no practical source of electrical power but there is abundant sunshine. Solar panels are often used for remote applications: like powering cabins, RVs, boats and small electronics when grid service is not available. Recently, “grid-interactive” solar electric systems have started gaining momentum as a cost-effective way to incorporate solar electricity into our everyday lives. Now we can take advantage of available solar energy while still enjoying the safety net of the utility grid.

How Solar Panels or PV Modules Work

In very basic terms, a solar panel (PV module) is a device that will produce a flow of electricity under sunlight. This electricity can be used to charge batteries and, with the aid of an inverter, it can power normal household electrical devices, or “loads”. PV modules can also be used in systems without batteries. Most solar panels (properly called “modules”) are framed in aluminum, topped with tempered glass, and sealed by a waterproof backing. Sandwiched between the glass and backing layers are the photo-reactive cells themselves, often made of silicon. On the back of the module is a junction box that may or may not have two cables coming out of it. If the junction box has no cables, it can be opened to access the electrical terminals where wires can be attached to conduct the generated electricity away from the module. If there are cables already in place, the junction box is usually sealed and not user-accessible. Sealed junction boxes are more common.

Junction box

There are lots of ways to make use of solar electricity. One of the simplest is to charge small electronic devices, like cell phones and music players, with lightweight, portable PV modules. Solar panels can be used individually or wired together to form a solar array. For larger electrical loads, there are two main types of systems for providing electrical power to homes, cabins and offices, etc: stand-alone battery based systems (also called ‘off-grid’ systems) and grid-tied systems (also known as utility-interactive). You’ll want to decide which system is best for your needs by reading more about both.

CELL TECHNOLOGY
There are several technologies used to make solar cells, the building blocks of panels. The main types currently on the market are:

Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are often the most expensive due to the manufacturing process, which uses large amounts of highly purified silicon and a great deal of energy. Monocrystalline solar cells are about 13-16% efficient at converting sunlight to electricity.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (aka multicrystalline)
Polycrystalline cell efficiencies range between 11-14% so polycrystaline solar panels are slightly less expensive than monocrystalline ones on a price-per-Watt basis.
String Ribbon Solar Panels
String ribbon solar panels use less silicon in the cell manufacturing process than the other crystalline types and achieves efficiencies in the 12-14% range.
Amorphous Solar Panels (aka thin-film)
Amorphous solar panels, or thin-film amorphous silicon, A-si, are not constructed from individual cells, but are made by depositing a photo-sensitive compound onto a substrate. While these solar panels have lower efficiencies, (usually 7-10%), they offer certain advantages. They can often be used in hotter climates since they suffer less power loss than other types under hot conditions. Additionally, the amorphous technology does not use the typical “glass sandwich” construction, allowing for the creation of flexible solar panels which are also very durable.
CIGS Solar Panels
The CIGS technology, or Copper Indium Gallium di-Selenide, uses no silicon at all, and can be made into panels with or without discrete cells.
There are also hybrid solar panels which use both crystalline and thin-film technologies to increase energy capture; these modules boast efficiencies up to 19%. Researchers are still working on lower-cost, higher-efficiency alternatives, but for the foreseeable future, these five types represent what is commercially available.

SOLAR ELECTRICAL CHARACTERISTICS
PV panels produce DC, or direct current electricity. This is the same type of electricity that is produced by your car battery or other batteries. The appliances in our homes use a different type of electricity called AC), or alternating current. DC electricity flows in one direction only, while AC electricity changes direction rapidly, offering certain advantages in transmission (greater distances through smaller wires).

In order to use solar electricity to run normal household devices, you’ll need an solar inverter, which converts DC to AC. A small system to charge batteries or power small electrical devices (like cell phones and personal music players) doesn’t require an inverter, but be sure to use the correct adapters and, if needed, voltage converters or limiters.

A basic primer on electricity will help make all of this clear:

Volt – Unit of electrical potential
Ampere – Rate of Current Flow
Watt – Rate of Energy Supply or Consumption
So now, let’s look at these values in terms of energy and power.

Power is the rate at which energy is supplied – like the speedometer on your car – and this is measured in Watts
Energy is the measure of power over time – like your car’s odometer – and this is measured in watt-hours or killowatt-hours
One of the best examples is your old school incandescent light bulb. If it is rated at 60 watts and you leave the light on for one hour, you are using 60 watt-hours of energy. So consumption can be measured in this formula:

Power (W) * Time (Hrs) = Energy (Watt-hours)

In the car analogy, the odometer counts the quantity of miles traveled. Your electric utility bill shows the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh, or 1,000 Watt-hours) you use per month. So how does the wattage rating of a solar panel affect the amount of energy the panel produces? Simple– with all else being constant, a higher-wattage solar panel will produce more energy over time than a lower-wattage panel. A 100 Watt solar panel will produce twice as much energy as a 50 Watt solar panel at the same location during the same period of time. It’s worth mentioning also that solar modules’ wattage output rating is based on what the modules produce under laboratory-controlled conditions, called Standard Test Conditions (STC). STC allows solar panels to be compared to each other using the same metric. However, because these rated wattages represent ideal laboratory conditions, it’s likely that the module will produce lower wattage in actual use.

PV modules also have and ratings. The rated wattage of a panel is equal to its operating voltage multiplied by its operating current: Watts = Voltage x Amps . The amount of energy in Watt-hours that a panel will produce is a product of the wattage of the panel and the number of hours of full-intensity sunlight, or , that it receives.

For example, a solar panel that outputs 100 Watts for two hours will produce 200 Watt-hours of energy. Insolation values are also tied to STC and are based on location. They can be found in data tables for most locations in the U.S. and the world. The actual number of Watt-hours a panel produces will very likely be less than this theoretical value due to many factors that affect the efficiencies of the system components. There are standard factors used to correct for real-world energy losses, but our present focus is the basic electrical principles.

VOLTAGE AND SOLAR PANELS
PV modules have three different voltage ratings that it’s handy to understand.
Nominal Voltage : The nominal voltage of a panel could also be called the “conversational voltage.” When we talk about the voltage of the panels and the other components of the system, we’ll most often use the nominal voltage. Nominal voltage actually refers to the voltage of the battery that the module is best suited to charge; this is a leftover term from the days when solar panels were used only to charge batteries. The actual voltage output of the panel changes as lighting and temperature conditions change, so there’s never one specific voltage at which the panel operates. Nominal voltage allows us, at a glance, to make sure the panel is compatible with a given system.
Voltage at Maximum Power or Vmp : This is the highest voltage the panel can produce while connected to a system and operating at peak efficiency.
Open Circuit Voltage or Voc : This is the maximum voltage that the panel can produce when not connected to an electrical circuit or system. Voc can be measured with a meter directly contacting the panel’s terminals or the ends of its built-in cables.

CURRENT AND SOLAR PANELS
Panels also have two different current ratings: (Imp) and (Isc) , both listed in Amps. The maximum power current is similar to Vmp: it’s the maximum current available when the panel is operating at peak efficiency in a circuit. Similar to Voc, the short circuit current is the current measurement your meter would show when in contact with the positive and negative terminals of the panel while not connected to a system or load.

All these electrical characteristics are used to help determine the size of the PV system and components. These specifications can be found on the label on each solar module as well as on manufacturer’s’ specification sheets.

SOLAR PANEL OR PV MODULE CONNECTORS
There are two main types of connectors on the backs of PV modules. Solar panels rated at less then 100 Watts, or modules manufactured more than ten years ago, often have openable junction boxes. You can connect wires to the positive and negative terminals of the panel by passing them through knock-out holes in the sides of the junction box. The other type of connector consists of a sealed junction box with wire leads, usually two to three feet in length.

In a small number of cases the wires have bare ends, but the majority of modules made today have MC or Multi-Contact brand connectors at the ends of their wires. MC connectors come in several styles, the two most common of which are often called MC1 and MC2.

LOCATION AND ORIENTATION OF THE SOLAR ARRAY
Location of the PV panels is critical to their energy output. A solar panel installed in Florida will produce more energy over the course of a year than an identical panel installed in North Dakota. Places closer to the equator will get more sunlight (also referred to as irradiance) throughout the year than places further north or south. The more irradiance striking a PV panel, the more electrical energy it will produce.

Another factor that will affect the electrical output of your array is the directional orientation of the modules. When choosing a location for your garden, you know that a southern exposure will increase yield. So with solar panels: they perform best when facing due south to get maximum exposure as the sun travels from East to West.

If you are using a compass to find south, make sure to adjust for magnetic declination, which varies with location. The of the array will also affect power output. In the Northern Hemisphere, a tilt angle equal to your latitude will yield the best year-round production. A tilt angle equal to your latitude minus 15 degrees will favor summer production, while an angle equal to your latitude plus 15 degrees will favor winter production.

SHADING – DON’T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU!
One of the biggest environmental factors affecting solar electricity production is shading. PV modules are very sensitive to shade. For example, if shaded by as much as a leafless tree branch, a PV module could lose up to 80% of its output. When selecting a site for your installation, choose one with the least possible shade during the hours between 9 AM and 3 PM.

Consider things that may possibly shade the array during different times of the year as the sun travels higher or lower in the sky. A location that, in June, doesn’t get any shading, may be shaded for a significant part of the day in December. A Solar Pathfinder is a useful tool for determining the optimal location for solar production. Plan on your PV panels producing power for more than 20 years. Young trees might not be an issue today, but as they grow they may become a source of shade.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
PV modules are only one component in a solar electric system. Check out some of our other articles to find out more about the other components you’ll need for your system. Remember that electricity is dangerous and can be lethal. Review the National Electric Code Section 690 for information on installing a code-compliant system. Read over John Wiles’s Photovoltaic Power Systems and the 2005 National Electrical Code: Suggested Practices. If you’re designing a large system, make sure to contact your local electrical inspector prior to the installation.

Thank you AltE store

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One Year Living with Solar Power in Nigeria

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One year: Living with solar.
Last month we showed you a picture of the hydrometer indicating the state of our batteries. Today we show you another so that you can compare. We have a charge controller that can equalize our cells. We have a full one kw in panels. Today we produced over 3 kw/h by 3 pm. We have seen as much as 4 kw/h from our one kw array. Had to put the TV, fridge and fans on to use our production. Lack of NEPA or fuel never bothered us. We reduced the batteries to 225 AH and it is still working fine.

Hydrometer showing healthy batteries
Hydrometer showing healthy batteries

Over 12 months we have had power every day but 4 days (due to a cable failure). As we optimize the system we sacrifice less. The Trojan batteries have been awesome. We have been able to bring them back from near death. lowbattery We had a few days the power would go off at 3 pm. We had to keep everything off during the day for 2 days to recharge the batteries. With the upgrade in panels and the better charge control we don’t have do that any more.

3.2 kw / h and the battery is in float mode
3.2 kw / h and the battery is in float mode

Our controller keeps a log of our daily production and it is a valuable resource to access. Later in the year we will add a small AC, triple the array to a full 3 kw and have 500 AH in batteries. We will let you know how the system performs and report back to you.

Frozen water on a hot day
Frozen water on a hot day

Solar power rules,

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The Power Situation in Nigeria

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We don’t remember it being this bad for some time. People get flashed for 1 hour a week and yet they are expected to pay the bill. People have run their generators 12 to 18 hours a day for weeks at a stretch.
We are really saddened that despite the billions of dollars in investments, Nigeria still produces less than 3000 MW of electricity.
The powers that be have finally realized that a solution must include renewables and they are all pointing at solar power.
Solar alone can’t do it. Micro Hydro, Wind and Solar will do it. Lets all play our part in making this a reality.P1020291

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A quiet solar power revolution is happening in Nigeria. We are a part of it

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We sprang forward and it got warm

3 to 10 Kva
3 to 10 Kva

We finally got above freezing. Since my return 1 month ago it has been one or two snow storms a week. The thermometer refused to budge above the freezing mark. Today the temperatures got above 50 degrees F and here I am barefoot and no hat standing outside and basking in the joy of a warm day. Africans don’t know what we have. It felt good liberating myself of my bulky clothes and having the sun touch my skin. Thank you spring.

Countdown to the Nigerian Election

It is a very exciting time to be a Nigerian. For the first time in recent political history the electorate is the pretty girl that everyone wants to take on a date. The political class has come to campaign at your doorstep. Instead of flying past you, they now drive to you. They are begging you to give them a 2nd chance. For the first time the voter is an unknown. The President and his opponents are doing what they can to show the people that they care and how they will benefit from democracy. It is a good place for Nigeria and it can’t continue to be business as usual. Please continue the campaigns, Nigerians need to see you in flesh and you need to experience what they endure daily.
Diarisgodooooh.

Update from AWPS

We are taking our offerings upscale. As we gain more experience we learn the benefits and short comings of the systems we have installed. We have been fortunate to have installed systems in a country with abundance sunshine. However we measure ourselves by different metrics. As the market evolves we aim to stay ahead of our competitors.

RaLiza Platinum Inverter
RaLiza Platinum Inverter

We have introduced a line up that has very low standby consumption and improved efficiency relative to systems we installed last month. They compare well with Inverters built by Victron, Studer and Outback. The power consumption at zero load is about 15 W compared to 60 to 80 W for our older units. They cost much more but we believe our clients will recoup that cost in better performance. We will be installing them on our next visit to Nigeria. The premium Invertek Inverter can be connected in parallel up to 96 kw. To increase capacity simply add a module. Awesome feature to have.

RaLiza Gold Inverter
RaLiza Gold Inverter

Our current supplier, The Solar Shop is out of solar panels and the Trojan batteries that we use in our installations until May. They have Hoppecke Batteries, a German flooded 2 Volt battery in stock. If you read one of our past newsletters, we told you that the 2 V battery is the best for our application, followed by the 6 V. We will be testing some 2 V Gel batteries in our personal installations and if we get good results we will install them for you. Expect to see the Trojan T-105RE 6V 250AH or the Hoppecke  2 V 1220AH batteries for the higher end installations. We are working with alternative suppliers as well.

2 V Hoppecke Batteries
2 V Hoppecke Batteries

You will begin to see higher end MPPT charge controllers in our installations. We will not skimp on this component. We are installing very expensive battery banks and we can’t risk them by installing inferior quality charge controllers. We will offer you three types. 60 amp 3 kw and an Outback Flexmax type controller in 60 and 80 amp capacity. The last one will be the Sunstar 50 and 80 amp. This controller will talk to our premium inverter and you can have as many as 16 connected together. An MPPT charge controller can get 30% more out of your panels than a standard controller can.

80 Amp Flexmax
80 Amp Flexmax

Great things are happening. We now test and run the Inverters and controllers in Sparta NJ, before we send them to Nigeria. It saves us time and gives us better control of our installations. We want to thank Frank Tricarico of Northeast Batteries for helping us get our hands on the Trojan batteries we will use for our test. I told Frank he was an angel and he wanted to settle for being just a friend. Thank you friend and Angel.

Thank you for reading and I am so excited at the direction the company is headed. We have customers in Nigeria that have not used a generator since June 2014 and they have 24 hour power. They have made compromises, but it has worked and they have attained something unheard of in Nigeria. 24/7 electricity.

If you have been thinking about taking the leap, this as good a time to do it.  Solar works and it is the future. A plane took off today and it will fly around the world powered by the sun. 

We can’t thank you enough. You have been patient, supporting and adventurous. We will continue on this exciting journey together.

Connecting you to the Sun one home at a time.
Call today +1973-200-8397 or +234 1 4041003 and get connected
 Solar power

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The Grid Vs Generator Vs Inverter Vs Solar (Which is the Best?)

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There are 4 ways to get power today in Nigeria. The grid (NEPA/PHCN/DICO), a generator, an Inverter or a solar generator. While each has its strength, there are clear advantages some hold over the other. We will review them in Numerical order and then you can decide which is the best solution for you.

1. The grid NEPA/PHCN/DISCO. In most countries this is your first choice. It should be reliable, quick to deploy, low cost of ownership and requires no maintenance. In Nigeria and most of Sub Saharan Africa the grid is unreliable. You can go days without power. When the power is delivered it can be epileptic, too low or too high. Can be destructive to appliances and sensitive electronics. You can’t plan because there is no time table for when you will have power. Expensive to deploy in ares that don’t have access to the grid.

Tangle of NEPA wires
Tangle of NEPA wires

2. A Generator: Inexpensive to buy, very quick to deploy, very easy to purchase and it is a mature solution. Easy to deploy in remote areas Generators are noisy, they pollute, they require expensive fuel frequently, need service and require a ventilated area for installation. High risk of injury from burns or asphyxiation. The cost of fueling a generator can be high if you run them daily. Most small generators are designed as back up and they can’t run for extended periods of time without breaking down or service. Low quality generators can be destructive to sensitive electronics. The running costs are higher than an other solution available.

Sumec Generator
Sumec Generator

3. The Inverter: They cost more than a generator per Kw to buy and requires professional installation. They require very little maintenance, make no noise, don’t pollute, can be installed indoors. The require little to no maintenance. Inverters have an automatic transfer switch and UPS function built in. The Inverter needs the grid or a generator to recharge the batteries. They were not designed as permanent solutions, so they get hot during extended use and eventually will suffer failure from excessive heat. The battery chargers on most Inverters lack the proper charge logic, resulting in premature battery failure.

Luminous Inverter
Luminous Inverter

4. Solar power Generator: Has the most initial upfront cost per Kw. Requires installation by an experienced solar professional. Can be designed to meet the budgets and needs of a client. Can be a back up or permanent solution. Makes no noise, does not pollute, designed as a permanent solution, equipment is more robust and will last longer. Comes with a UPS and an automatic transfer switch built in. The batteries will charge with the sun, NEPA/PHCN or a generator. If the system is properly sized you can completely avoid using a generator. Some customers in remote areas have gone completely off the grid. Has running costs that are close to grid power per watt hour. Lowest after the grid. It takes a few days to as much as one month to tailor your usage to your installed capacity. Solar power requires that the panels be cleaned during the dry season.

3 kw with Trojan 410 AH batteries
3 kw with Trojan 410 AH batteries

What you decide to use will be determined by your budget, the amount of power you receive from the grid and how much space you have. We hope this helps you decide on a solution that will help you manage the poor supply coming from the grid.

 

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