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Thread: Post 02 2021 (Why solar will never work in South Africa)

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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    Post 02 2021 (Why solar will never work in South Africa)

    Hi everyone,

    This is just a short Post about Solar and the real world.

    Now many Solar installers will tell you that you can go without Eskom.

    Simply put this is not true.

    Why so?

    Well i have my own solar system "independent system that is NOT part or the house's electrics" In short it is completely stand alone. So upon installing the thing I worked out my office need about 800 Watts to function and so i build it to handle about 3000Watts by giving it a 3kva inverter alongside several batters that pushed out 24 volts at 1000 amps. Max output of my system is about AC 220 at 16 amps. So in short "over kill"

    Each set of batteries has 2 panels pushing about 350Watts each. So recharging isn't a problem at all and to but it bluntly my batteries are fully charge before mid day "under normal weather conditions" Cloudy weather this fluctuate.

    So sounds good i pull 380Watts from my system "thanks to computers getting less power hungry" and my batteries normally last me days without charging.

    BUT you get those days where there is no sun, and Eskom is also missing. Well i had a week of exactly that, thanks to a drunk claiming the power box and the darn thing burned out. So we had real problems. It would take time to repair and the sun was missing in action for the most part.

    One of my batteries died "due to age" taking the second one with it. Total replacement cost R14k for the set.

    Now normally i wouldn't cry over this because i knew this WILL happen eventually.

    BUT more importantly i had to start my 10KVA generator up because i need to keep my food cold and the rest of my house including my shower runs on gas mostly. So The generator didn't have a lot to do thus i let it charge my batteries while it was humming away.

    It was at this point i realized that the whole "you can be independent" is a load of BS.

    Those batteries WILL die on you, the sun can go missing for days AND hail the size or a golf ball WILL kill your panels that most insurance companies "that i know of" will not insure.

    So if you are thinking solar. YES always double what you think you will need. Great advice. But forget about going off grid. If not Eskom... petrol/gas/batteries will cost more just saying

    Sorry for all you Solar installers but be fair towards your clients. Tell them what will happen to their batteries, what will happen to the solar panel when a golf ball size hail hits it and explain to them why they need a beefy generator and maybe a gas stove / gas water heater for the shower.

    Oh and to add to the pain we where without water so my Tank with its 1kwatt pump also had to be driven by my generator. That blew its darn regulator. Thankfully i had protections that stopped it from killing my stuff.

    So when doing this think
    • what do you need
    • What you are willing to spend
    • is it worth it


    chances are it isn't

    So why will solar never work in South Africa. Massive cost, low quality batteries that are massively over priced. Simply put it is continues cost. There is no long term savings. Once you install solar the supplier owns you.
    peace is a state of mind
    Disclaimer: everything written by me can be considered as fictional.

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    Diamond Member Blurock's Avatar
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    Solar is great, but it is expensive. Fortunately, battery technology is improviong and power storage may become the norm.
    I am now experimenting with a street light which stays on dim and the PIR sensor puts it on bright when there is movement. It is an effective security tool as it immediately alerts me when he lights go bright.

    What happened to the wind generators that farmers used to have in addition to the old Lister generators? Nobody seems to be looking into that as an additional power source. If those massive propellers can light up a town, surely a smaller wind generator will be able to light up a house?

    A combination of wind, solar and electricity may be somethiong to look at?
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    Watch a documentary called: Planet of the Humans.

    The whole thing is a huge farce....
    “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
    ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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    tec0 (24-Jan-21)

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    Diamond Member Justloadit's Avatar
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    I have been advocating for years that LEAD ACID batteries are not suitable for daily charge and discharge, as is the application in solar.
    Lead Acid batteries require long hours of constant current charge, and this is not what one gets from a solar installation.
    Even for standard standby, where you maintain the lead acid at full charge, causes the lead acid batteries to deteriorate. My experimentation has shown, that you loose 50% capacity every year in lead acid, even if hardly use it. The problem is the continues top up charge being applied, ready for the moment that there is loss of mains power.

    Sure if you you have nothing connected to your battery, then the lifespan increases, but simply standing there, it loses its capacity for when you need it. So the maintenance is far to complex for the average home user.

    Any Lithium chemistry battery is 10 times better than lead. They can handle impulse charging, and have far higher current ratings during the charge process. If correctly controlled you can charge a lithium battery in 2 hours.
    Lithium is ideally suited for solar applications, simply because of the charge conditions involved.
    Another part of Lithium batteries is that they are manufactured with BMS (Battery Management System), which protects against short circuits and over driving the battery.

    The important points to Lithium are
    Never store a Lithium completely discharged, it will get damaged
    Use the CORRECT CHARGER for your specific Lithium chemistry. Not all charges are the same specifications
    Never use a charger which has a higher current than the battery is capable off, as it will explode and burn. VERIFY specifications
    Maintain battery temperature below 30°C during use to prolong battery cycle life.
    Ensure the equipment you use on the Lithium is set up for the specific Lithium chemistry you are using.
    Victor - Knowledge is a blessing or a curse, your current circumstances make you decide!
    Solar pumping, Solar Geyser & Solar Security lighting solutions - www.microsolve.co.za

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    tec0 (24-Jan-21)

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    Lead acid batteries are affordable in comaparison to lithium ... yes we can go into the life span and DOD (depth of discharge) which will indicate that in the long run you save money ... however people dont care how much money they will save in 5 years time ... technology is moving so fast that in 5 years time there will be a better solution.

    I am in a situation right now where we are about to relocate 3 x 5 kva inverter units (60amps) and at the same time upgrade the battery backup (no solar panels yet)

    I ask myself this question ... the current batteries are no longer in service ... they lasted about 3-4 years at a cost of around R1200 per battery x 12 = R144000 you couldnt even buy 1 lithium batterry for double that price back then.

    The batteries have to be replaced x 12 ... going price at the moment around R2200 per battery = around R26400 you could buy 1 lithium battery pack for that price.

    Some might say ... why not install one lithium 48 volt battery pack to run all 3 inverters ... then add on as you can afford ... the question would be ... does a single lithium battery have the capacity to maintain the inrush of 60amp plus (realistic around 45 amps as the power switches off ... the house ... 2 outbuildings and a double garage) load as the power switches off.

    Another question would be do you run the power online and switch to the batteries like a cheap UPS or do you keep thwe house online all the time ... just toppping up the batteries.

    People make out like the power in this country is so bad that you need to go off grid ... which is actually a load of crap ... even with load shedding (2 hours) its not that bad for domestic installations ... you dont need a 60 amp single phase backup system ... but I suppose if you can afford a couple 2 million rand car to drive on weekends ... you wouldnt be whining about the price of lithium batteries ... you would be like some of my customers ... they have 3 phase generators in sound proof buildings with a fuel tank in a room next to the generator with an automatic changeover switch and all essential services connected to pure sine wave inverters with lithium battery backup ... but we not talking about those people.

    Like advertsing ... a bussines plan etc ... every single application is different ther eis no one solution fits all.

    People want a quick fix at the cheapest price that they can afford ... which in most cases is not the ideal solution and thats where the fight starts.
    Comments are based on opinion...not always facts....that's why people use an alias.

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    Diamond Member Justloadit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ians View Post
    ... the question would be ... does a single lithium battery have the capacity to maintain the inrush of 60amp plus (realistic around 45 amps as the power switches off ... the house ... 2 outbuildings and a double garage) load as the power switches off.
    Yes Lithium has the capacity to do this, since the internal resistance is extremely low.
    Quote Originally Posted by ians View Post
    Another question would be do you run the power online and switch to the batteries like a cheap UPS or do you keep the house online all the time ... just toppping up the batteries.
    Grid tie inverters work this way. They synchronise to the mains, and when sun is available, the inverter uses this energy, and tops up the balance from the mains. On a power failure, it simply continues providing energy. In most cases, an intelligent system will knock of high energy non essential loads during this phase.

    Quote Originally Posted by ians View Post
    People make out like the power in this country is so bad that you need to go off grid ... which is actually a load of crap ... even with load shedding (2 hours) its not that bad for domestic installations ...
    Well you have been lucky. In the last 2 weeks we have had 3 cycles of a minimum of 5 hours of load shedding at home, and similar amount of time at my business. So it is not simply 2 hours any more.
    And the news is that this is going to be the norm for many years to come, bearing in mind that right now industry my be running at a third of what is is required to bring the economy back up to pre-2008. We will require more power generation if we need to ramp up manufacture and create more jobs.


    Quote Originally Posted by ians View Post
    Like advertsing ... a bussines plan etc ... every single application is different ther eis no one solution fits all.

    People want a quick fix at the cheapest price that they can afford ... which in most cases is not the ideal solution and thats where the fight starts.
    Exactly.
    Victor - Knowledge is a blessing or a curse, your current circumstances make you decide!
    Solar pumping, Solar Geyser & Solar Security lighting solutions - www.microsolve.co.za

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    tec0 (24-Jan-21)

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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    Me, i personally just need my office to run. My house is configured for gas and so i can handle long hours without power. The generator helps during day time but at night it becomes a problem as i work late hours. So my inverter needs to be running and i did fork out the cash for "what was then the best option" gel batteries. Yes they die, yes they are not good BUT no fumes no maintenance for a few years isn't bad.

    Why i am angry is, municipalities are NOT doing their best. They do not service/repair/maintain so regardless of what Eskom do, we can sit anything between 12 to 24 hours to 48 hours without power. AND if you get a drunk dude slamming into the bloody utility box then yea... i doubt there is a solution for stupidity and more to the point where the hell did he get the alcohol to begin with ???

    Point is, it is fixed "not fully repaired yet just fixed so it works" and i bet you by the end of 2021 that "fix" will still be there. They are not going to repair anything anytime soon.
    peace is a state of mind
    Disclaimer: everything written by me can be considered as fictional.

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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    To all you guys that did it, Is it worth building your own Lithium ion battery pack? i looked into this was thinking "import the parts and protections" build the thing. I am not good with electronics but i can read and there is a ton of instructions on the web. So if any of you did this please share, or is it to high risk.

    I am thinking to maybe build "cast" a small structure 0.5m tall and make it 2mx2m "box" of cement and lid properly. So if something do happen the worst is i will have a small contained fire. I know it sounds stupid but one never know with these things specially when it comes to DIY?
    peace is a state of mind
    Disclaimer: everything written by me can be considered as fictional.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Justloadit View Post

    Grid tie inverters work this way. They synchronise to the mains, and when sun is available, the inverter uses this energy, and tops up the balance from the mains. On a power failure, it simply continues providing energy. In most cases, an intelligent system will knock of high energy non essential loads during this phase.
    I cant use a grid tie inverter because the batteries are to backup the power ... so a hybrid is required ... I dont have solar panels installed.
    Comments are based on opinion...not always facts....that's why people use an alias.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    To all you guys that did it, Is it worth building your own Lithium ion battery pack? i looked into this was thinking "import the parts and protections" build the thing. I am not good with electronics but i can read and there is a ton of instructions on the web. So if any of you did this please share, or is it to high risk.

    I am thinking to maybe build "cast" a small structure 0.5m tall and make it 2mx2m "box" of cement and lid properly. So if something do happen the worst is i will have a small contained fire. I know it sounds stupid but one never know with these things specially when it comes to DIY?
    I have been doing a lot of research into DIY battery builds ... purchased a pile of battery packs and started the process ... it boils down to what your time is worth ... if your labour time is worthless ... ie you work for a company and get paid peanuts ... then doing it yourslef might be an option ... my time is too valuable to waste stripping batteries ...spending hours testing each battery ... of the batch I purchased ...only 40 % were useable and they are already second hand ... I laughed off that idea as an absolute waste of my time.

    Someone asked me the other day to make something ... I told the person that I would do it when I have some free time ... he got pushing and insisting it had to be done in a certain time frame ... so I quote a price ... that shut him up quickly ... if there is one thing I have learnt in life ... my time is the most valauble asset.
    Comments are based on opinion...not always facts....that's why people use an alias.

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