General Solar Power Information
South Africa has been quite slow to begin developing its solar power industry, but solar power is now beginning to increase in importance in this country's economy and electricity supply strategy. One of the major inhibiting factors is the high initial cost of setting up a solar power system. However, as technology is improving and becoming cheaper, and as fossil fuel-based electricity has started getting more expensive, leading to both power outages and sharp increases in electricity rates, solar power is fast becoming a more attractive option. There are now several local manufacturers of solar water heaters and with increasing foreign investment photovoltaic panels (electricity producing panels) are also starting to be produced in South Africa. Currently Annual photovoltaic (PV) panel-assembly capacity totals 5MW (energy.gov.za).
Some very useful insights about the adoption of photovoltaic solar panels have been gathered by Carolina Werner de Araujo and Muneera Allie from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Predominant reasons that motivated people to purchase solar PV systems included:
- Financial benefits and savings
- Going green (environmental concerns)
- Independence from Eskom
Predominant barriers that prevented people from adopting included:
- Price/cost of solar PV systems
- Reliability of power supply
- Lack of information available on solar PV systems
View full report: Adoption of solar photovoltaic technology.pdf
This is a guide to the different types of solar panels and cells available in South Africa. A price list has also been provided.
Types Of Solar Panels
Mono-crystalline Solar Panels
Mono-crystalline Solar Panels are very efficient, even in low-light conditions, because they are made of one large crystal of silicon. They are not common as they are more expensive than Poly-crystalline Solar Panels to manufacture. Mono-crystalline Solar Panels can be ground-mounted or roof-mounted.
Poly-crystalline Solar Panels
Poly-crystalline Solar Panels are not quite as efficient as Mono-crystalline Solar Panels, but are the most common type because they are less expensive to manufacture. They are made of many small silicon crystals. Poly-crystalline Solar Panels can be ground-mounted or roof-mounted.
Amorphous or Thin-Film Solar Panels
Amorphous Solar Panels are less efficient than the above two types, therefore they require a larger surface area for the same level of power generation. However they are the cheapest to manufacture. They are made of a thin film of molten silicon that is spread across large plates of stainless steel.
A great advantage of Amorphous Solar Panels over the above two is that they continue to charge when only part of the solar panel receives sun.
They work better in hot climates than traditional solar panels and work well on large vehicles and ships.
- Solar Power In General
- How Do Photovoltaic Cells Work
- Advantages of Solar Power
- Disadvantages of Solar Power
Solar Equipment For The Home
a. Types Of Solar Panels Available
b. Solar Regulators
c. Solar Inverters
- Cost of solar panels
- How Many Solar Panels Do I Need To Power My Home?
- Jobs In The Solar Industry
- DIY Solar Panels
- Why Has Solar Energy Not Yet Taken Off In South Africa?
- Future Developments
Solar Power In General
To reduce global warming we need to discontinue our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity and power, and one way of doing this is by installing solar panels because they are eco friendly - they don’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The use of solar power is growing daily and will become even more important in the future. More and more home owners are installing solar panels to become self-sufficient with regards to electricity and to reduce their monthly electricity bills. Solar panels enable one to power one’s house cleanly and efficiently, without relying on fossil fuels.
The South African climate is ideally suited to the use of solar power, e.g. the Northern Cape is one of the two best places in the world to generate CSP because it generates close to 3,000 kWh of electricity per square meter.
Experts estimate that every year one square kilometre of desert receives the solar energy equivalent of 1.5 million barrels of oil.
Growth of the Solar Industry will be given a boost as new regulations are enforced to build more energy efficient homes.
Written by Simisha Pather-Elias Tuesday, 23 August 2011 21:14
2011 has indeed been an interesting year for the renewable energy sector in the country. Electricity tariffs went up another 25% in July making all renewable energy technologies more attractive to the consumer, especially solar water heaters (SWHs); and the Integrated Resource Plan 2 (IRP2) was finalized with big wins for the solar industry especially for large scale solar PV. Following that, the government announced the reduction in rebates for solar water heaters and declared the feed-in tariff model (REFIT) to be illegal, sending renewable energy investors and developers scuttling. With this rollercoaster chain of events, one ponders where the solar industry is going and whether it is the right time for companies to invest in South Africa.
As we all know by now, the major obstacle to advancement of the solar industry in South Africa, has always been the high cost of the technology. While international learning curves have reduced the cost of renewable energy technologies significantly, most technologies remain prohibitive unless there are incentives such as subsidies and rebates. This has been the case for solar water heaters and solar PV in particular.
Many people believe that home solar power systems will eventually replace fossil-fuel based energy sources as the way that most people power their homes. This free and never-ending way to create energy is a much better way to create power for your home, and is more affordable than ever.
So, what is the most important thing that you should know about home solar power systems?
Did you know that the amount of energy that is absorbed into the earth, ocean and atmosphere every hour is more than the entire amount of energy that mankind used in the entire year of 2002. That's what MIT's publication "Powering the Planet: Chemical Challenges in Solar Energy Utilization" states. The earth absorbs energy from the sun in the form of heat and light, and the advent of home solar power systems means that the average citizen and homeowner can now put that energy to use!
That said, the most important thing you need to know about home solar power systems is that you can continue making electricity as long as the sun keeps on shining. Even if everyone had one of these amazing systems, you wouldn't run out of energy. These systems are now available to homeowners in the form of photovoltaic solar cells, which convert sun energy into electricity and solar geysers that transfer the sun's energy directly to water, making it hot enough for ordinary home use. The solar cells that most people use for their home solar power systems are arranged into a solar panel.
The range of solar-powered camping equipment available in South Africa has been a little slower to develop than that of fixed mount solar panels and grid-connected solar power systems. However, equipment that was developed for various large-scale mobile applications such as border patrol, military operations, disaster relief expeditions, etc., is now being adapted for smaller scale leisure activities such as camping. Most camping solar power systems rely on either small rigid solar panels which can be mounted onto a trailer, caravan or 4x4, or simply propped up in the campsite once camp has been set up, or on flexible thin-film solar panels. The latter type is far more portable, hardy and better able to cope with the range of conditions that could be encountered on a camping trip, although more of them might be required to supply the same amount of electricity as a typical rigid solar panel set up.
South Africa has been a little slow to begin developing its potential for solar power generation, but solar power is now beginning to increase in importance in this country's economy and electricity supply strategy. One of the major inhibiting factors was the high initial cost of setting up a solar power system. However, as the technology has improved and become cheaper, and as the supply of fossil fuel-based electricity has begun to fail to meet demand, leading to both power outages and sharp increases in electricity rates, solar power is fast gaining in popularity, and there are now several suppliers of the technology here.
Solar chargers convert the sun's energy into DC current in order to charge batteries. They can be mounted to a fixed structure or portable. When mounted to a fixed structure they are generally referred to as solar panels, and they are often connected to the electricity grid so they can supply electricity to the grid when there is too much to use immediately or store in the batteries they are connected to. However, portable solar chargers are not connected to the grid and are used solely for charging batteries or devices such as cell phones and laptops. They can usually be used even in low light conditions (although the charge rate will usually be slower), and are becoming increasingly popular for providing back-up and emergency power when travelling, camping or on the road. They are generally trickle chargers, which means that they charge batteries slowly and the risk of overcharging (which causes damage) is small.
Types of electric solar panels
Solar panels are made up of varying numbers of solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, which convert the sun's energy into storable electricity by means of semiconductors, using the photovoltaic effect. These solar panels are generally called photovoltaic (PV) panels as opposed to thermal solar panels that produce hot water. Various different types of photovoltaic solar panels are available, the most common of which are rigid, and are known as crystalline silicon, either monocrystalline or multicrystalline. A more recent development is thin-film solar panels, which can be either rigid or flexible. They are typically more efficient, in other words they produce more electricity for the same amount of sunshine and area of solar panel, but at present they cost more than crystalline silicon panels in South Africa. Various sizes of solar panels are available, so when buying them it is best to work out the approximate amount of electricity required and choose the size accordingly.