In the dark of night, students in a rural village in Ghana huddle around a kerosene lamp to complete their homework. Others shine flashlights to illuminate textbooks. The lack of electricity, nonetheless computers, dimmed the prospects of a bright future for students in the village of Kpantarigo. This was until Francis Abugbilla, a second-year doctoral student at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, brought electricity to them in the form of solar power.

“The world is technologically-driven. I want to empower the children in my community by giving them a quality education,” he said. “I don’t want the children in my village [of Kpantarigo] to lag behind the world.”

Even though his village of over 1,500 had no electricity, computers, schools or clinics, he knew from his own experience that education is the impetus for change.

Making education matter
Born and raised in a small farming community, Abugbilla worked as a shepherd and began his formal education at 12. He was determined to excel. He walked nearly two hours a day to and from the elementary school in another village. The money his family scraped together paid for the kerosene to light the lamp for his studies.

“I was economically disadvantaged,” Abugbilla said. “Education was the key to change my family’s situation and my community.”

At 17, he participated in a French quiz competition in the regional capital of Bolgatanga. This day changed his life: It was the first time he saw a computer.

“At first, I thought it was a TV because of the desktop monitor,” Abugbilla laughed. “I needed to know how it worked and how I could use it.”

Later in high school, he looked over the shoulders of his classmates. He was mesmerized as they pounded keys and information magically appeared on the screen. He wasn’t confident enough to try. Until his instructor publicly shamed him.

“He said why can’t you do the basic things on a computer,” Abugbilla recalled. “My self-esteem was quite low.”

Determined to prove his instructor wrong, Abugbilla practiced typing with the help of a friend. Not long after, he bought his own Hewlett-Packard laptop as part of a scholarship he earned for his studies.

Becoming a global steward
Abugbilla excelled in his undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, where he earned a bachelor’s of education in French honors degree with a minor in English. But he had his sights on coming to America. He applied to the University of Arizona, Tucson and received a full-ride scholarship.

Francis Abugbilla

Francis Abugbilla, a Jackson School doctoral candidate, shares solar power with students in Ghana. Pictured is Francis giving a solar lamp to one of three winners of a global affairs competition that he initiated, September 2018.

As one of five to graduate from college in his village and the only one to obtain a master’s degree, Abugbilla was determined to climb the highest rung of education.

After completing his master’s degree in French, he applied for doctoral programs at 10 universities including the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

He received six acceptances with four full-ride scholarships. But the UW’s Jackson School stood amongst the crowd.

“I chose the Jackson School because of the accelerated nature of the program. It is not like the traditional doctoral program. I wanted to experience academia and the practical side of the policy world,” he said.

Abugbilla also received the Henry M. Jackson Doctoral Fellowship, funded by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, that annually supports a deserving doctoral student with promising potential.

Finding a meaningful solution
Despite all his accomplishments, Abugbilla didn’t forget about the young people in his village.

“I had this idea of bringing electricity to my village through solar panels,” he said. “It was this daunting task. I didn’t know who to reach out to, where to turn, how would I fund this?”

Abugbilla shares a Ghanaian proverb: “The gods that look for yams for a child in the forest, will look for a hoe for digging the yams.” Where there is a vision, there is a provision, he explained.

In 2018, he found that chance thanks to the UW Marcy Migdal Fund for Educational Equality, a $1,000 fund supporting exceptional students engaged in finding meaningful solutions to global problems. With the support, Abugbilla installed a solar panel in the village school, allowing teachers to prepare lessons and students to have computer lessons and return to the school in the evening to do their homework. He also initiated an annual global studies competition in the school.The equipment installed include the Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter VE.Direct 500VA and  Victron Energy BlueSolar MPPT 75/15 

The Marcy Migdal fund is administered by the Center for Global Studies, which is housed at the Jackson School and is also a U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center. Students from all three campuses are encouraged to apply for the fellowship in February, with awardees announced in June.

Joel Migdal, professor of international studies who set up the Migdal fund in his late wife’s name said: “I couldn’t think of a project that my late wife, Marcy, who was an educator and social justice activist, would have found more meaningful than that of Francis’s. It brought tears to my eyes.”

Abugbilla continues to fundraise on GoFundMe to expand the solar panel project. He said he has been overwhelmed by the support he received from UW students, professors and others in the community.

“The Marcy Migdal fund was the tool to get me to dig the yam,” Abugbilla beamed. “It was the opportunity that opened more opportunities for me.” Tamara Leonard, Managing Director of the Center for Global Studies, added that the project exemplifies the kind of work that the Fund is intended to support.

Teaching others at UW and beyond
Shortly after initiating his solar power project, Abugbilla was invited to and participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University Annual Conference at the University of Chicago, an event honoring student leaders dedicated to addressing pressing challenges in the world. He also recently served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 Africa Now Youth Leadership Conference, an organization based in Seattle dedicated to inspiring African youth. In June 2019, he will attend the Global Youth Advancement Summit at the Michigan State University to talk about his solar power project.

Thanks in part to support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, in winter 2020 Abugbilla will help teach a course in the Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program, an experiential learning capstone for undergraduate international studies majors. The Task Force, on energy interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa, will be led by Danny Hoffman, a professor in anthropology at the UW.

While Abugbilla plans on continuing his research at the Jackson School with a focus on peace, violence and security, his heart is still in Ghana.

“The goal is to electrify the schools  with solar power and then scale it up to the entire community,” he said. “It is important that people take their destiny into their own hands and effect the needed change in their lives. I want to spur them into thinking innovatively and outside the box.”

As just one of five in his village and in his family to graduate from college, and the only one to earn a master’s degree, Abugbilla is well on his way to propelling his community with solar power and the world forward.

Interested in learning more or supporting Francis’s “Empower Kids Through Technology” project? Click here.

About the author
Mary AndomMary Andom is a graduate student in the master’s in applied international studies program at the UW’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and has a keen interest in immigration and national security issues. She spent eight years working in multinational environments in Germany, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan as a Non-Commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. Prior to enlisting in the military, Mary worked for various news organizations as a reporter and columnist for The Seattle TimesSeattle Post Intelligencer and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 


Lithium SuperPack batteries – an all in one solution .These new Lithium-Ion, LiFePO4 chemistry batteries are often an ideal replacement for many 12V and 24V marine, automotive, caravan, motorhome, work vans and similar battery applications. It might even be for an overland motorcycle if using the smallest 20Ah version; to recharge a camera, phone or laptop for instance.

Other examples – take a typical small boat or van which may have a 110Ah to 220Ah lead-acid leisure battery for light continuous loads such as lighting, laptops, phones, instruments, powering a diesel heater, a fridge etc. And for shorter term loads maybe add a small inverter to charge power tools, run a small microwave or travel kettle for example. Using one SuperPack battery it matches well with the Phoenix Inverter VE.Direct 250VA – 1200VA range. Maybe you’ll add in around 100 to 200Wp of solar panels too using a small MPPT.

Regardless of the use, whichever SuperPack you choose it’ll be lighter than lead, can be smaller if you wish or give you more Wh in the same space – plus give you around 5 times the cycle life.

The main difference to Victron’s other lithium (often more kWh) offerings are the SuperPacks keep everything in one package, by having an integrated BMS and safety switch built-in. No additional components are needed as the internal switch will disconnect the battery in case of over discharge, over charge or high temperature. Simple, compact and safe.

If you are considering a new battery don’t immediately discount Lithium as being too costly. Whilst it is true that the capital cost of Li-ion is greater than that of quality AGM or Gel batteries – it is also true that the cost of ownership can be less than lead acid types. Much depends on your application, but rest assured – life with Li-ion is far less hassle than lead.

Over the last 8 years on my sailing yacht I’ve run AGM lead leisure batteries and Lithium-Ion propulsion batteries. Initially it was AGM for propulsion before discovering the effectiveness of Lithium. That journey taught me a lot about loads, capacity, cost and battery life – it’s one of the reasons why I think we’ve reached a tipping point and why these new SuperPack batteries may just be the ticket for your next project or battery replacement.

If in the first instance you are unfamiliar with AGM vs Lithium, then here’s a blog that explains that.

When to use a SuperPack?

Every battery size and type has it’s own particular use. For instance you may use the Lithium battery 12,8V & 25,6V Smart and the Lithium battery 24V (LiFePO4 & NMC chemistries) ranges (all of which have an external BMS) in quite different applications to the new SuperPack range. So, where to use the SuperPacks?

When it comes to replacing lead acid type batteries such as AGM and Gel in many applications, the SuperPack range can be considered the next generation after lead – making it far easier to replace lead with lithium. The only caveats being replacement is down to certain parameters being met, namely – Capacity (Ah), Voltages (12.8V & 25.6V), Discharge and Charge currents (C rates). Do in that case be sure that your chosen replacement fits your criteria by checking the datasheet and be aware the SuperPacks can be connected in parallel, but not in series. Hence in that case you would consider the other Victron lithium products named above.

The Lithium SuperPack

Victron Energy’s recently introduced Lithium SuperPack range comes in the following capacities and voltages:

12.8V & 25.6V Lithium SuperPack batteries:

  • 12.8V – 20Ah
  • 12.8V – 60Ah
  • 12.8V – 100Ah
  • 12.8V – 200Ah
  • 25.6V – 50Ah

These SuperPacks will give you 2,500 cycles to 80% depth of discharge at 25°C, much more than lead.

Comparison: SuperPack 60Ah LiFePO4 vs 90Ah AGM

Let’s compare the 60Ah Li-ion to say a typical 90Ah AGM battery discharged to the commonly accepted economic cycle life of 50% discharge for lead. That would give us 600 cycles at that DOD for the AGM compared to 2,500 at the even deeper discharge of 80% for the LiFePO4. Already you can see you may need to replace your lead-acid type battery 2 to 4 times as often as the Lithium. Of course loads, operating conditions and calendar life have to be factored in too. Regardless you get the idea – Lithium does more and lasts longer.

The benefits of Lithium don’t stop there though. Whilst LiFePO4 chemistry is considered the safest of them all, it’s worth considering other factors too to decide whether the reduced weight and volume of say NMC is of more importance for your application than LiFePO4 for example. Victron Energy do both types. These star graphs do a good job of explaining the differences: https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/types_of_lithium_ion

60Ah SuperPack

90Ah AGM

Weight
9.5kg 27kg
Size (mm)
229 x 138 x 213 350 x 167 x 183
Useable energy @ 25°C
614Wh 540Wh
Cycle life
2,500 cycles 600 cycles
Cost
x 2.5 (approx)  x 1

Notes for the table above:

  • Useable energy and cycle life are based on 80% depth of discharge for Li-ion and 50% for AGM, these being considered the most economic use of those battery types.
  • Higher loads with lead will further reduce available Wh (Peukert’s Law) when compared to Li-ion.
  • Capacity is also reduced for both types by temperatures below their 25°C temperature rating (see their respective datasheets)

Make what you will of the above and whilst you are pondering the pros and cons don’t forget to take these additional factors into account for the comparison above.

  • Shipping: If you are replacing your lead from 2 to 4 times as often as Li-on and the fact that the lead weighs around 3 to 4 times as much (depends on Li-ion chemistry used) – then do consider the extra shipping costs.
  • Voltage stability: The voltage profile is far flatter for Li-ion compared to lead.
  • Voltage sag: Subject to the load, voltage sag with lead is significant compared to Li-ion.
  • Li-ion has much faster charge times and if charging from a generator it saves on generator runtime.

Other factors to consider

Is the above enough to convince you of why Lithium might be a better alternative than AGM or indeed Gel? Personally I’m sold on Lithium, but if you are not here’s a few things further to consider:

  1. A lead-acid battery will fail prematurely due to sulfation if it operates in deficit mode for long periods of time (i.e. if the battery is rarely, or never at all, fully charged). It will also fail early if left partially charged or worse, fully discharged.
  2. By comparison a Lithium-Ion battery does not need to be fully charged. This is a major advantage of Li-ion compared to lead-acid which needs to be fully charged often to prevent sulfation.

  1. Efficiency. In several applications (especially off-grid solar), energy efficiency can be of crucial importance. The round-trip energy efficiency (discharge from 100% to 0% and back to 100% charged) of the average lead-acid battery is 80%.
  2. The round-trip energy efficiency of a Li-ion battery is 92%.

  1. The charge process of lead-acid batteries becomes particularly inefficient when the 80% state of charge has been reached, resulting in efficiencies of 50% or even less in solar systems where several days of reserve energy are required (battery operating in 70% to 100% charged state).
  2. In contrast, a Li-ion battery will still achieve 90% efficiency even under shallow discharge conditions.

Make the switch?

Are you ready to make the switch from Lead to LiFe? If you’ve considered all the above I suspect you might be. And if you need more useable Ah why not run the sums on say a 100Ah Lithium SuperPack vs 220Ah AGM using the process I have above. Or indeed a 200Ah Li-ion SuperPack vs your choice of lead.Lithium SuperPack batteries – an all in one solution

Don’t forget too that Lithium has little or no Peukert effect when compared to Lead types. This is especially important when considering loads with lead-acid higher than 0.05C (Battery Ah divided by 20 or Ah multiplied by 0.05). In other words for a 100Ah AGM with a Peukert of say 1.15 or more and discharging at 0.25C (25 Amps in this case – which is 5 times the 20 hour rate) there will be significant reduction in capacity – as there will be at colder temperatures too. Li-ion has a Peukert of around 1.05 when compared to lead of around 1.15 to 1.25.

So – if you were discharging that 100Ah lead at 5 Amps (the 20 hour discharge rate at a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade) then the full capacity of 100Ah is still availaable and it’s not shrunk due to Peukert. But now if it were 0.25C, it’ll be around 80% of that original 100Ah capacity – or less, subject to load type and duration.Lithium SuperPack batteries – an all in one solution

The bottom line is you no longer have the Ah you purchased, whereas with Lithium there is little to no effect, helped by a lower Peukert and good voltage stability. That is especially important with constant inverter loads – a place where lithium shines. If you want to learn more about Peukert and run a spreadsheet to see such effects, then I have found this link most helpful.

Finally and one I’m always grateful of is vastly reduced charge times, no more waiting for hours of lead absorption charging to get from 80% to 100% SOC. Conversely Li-ion flies up to around 98% SOC in bulk with those last few percent in absorption to fully balance the cells – and unlike lead you don’t always have to fully charge to 100% as often. Note that your 12V charging system needs to accommodate 14.2V – 14.4V ‘absorption’ and ‘13.5V’ float. If charging from an alternator also note the maximum continuous charge currents for the 12.8V range, by checking the datasheet.

Downsides

Not wanting to sound too evangelical, we also need to consider the few downsides of Li-ion.

  • Higher upfront cost and to some extent higher capital risk.
  • Charging is restricted to the +5°C to +45° range, subject to an internal means of blocking the charge source when the temperature is below +5°C. Note this is currently automatically possible with Victron MPPTs when used in conjunction with the Smart Battery Sense for instance. Other products are being worked on to achieve this too and documentation to that effect will be updated in due course.
  • The SuperPack (unlike other Victron Lithiums) is not designed for series connections.
  • The peak and maximum continuous discharge current of the SuperPack range is not as much as some of our Lithium batteries as its related to the BMS and the disconnect being internal to the battery – so do check the datasheet to make sure the current peak and discharge ratings suit your needs – or choose from the Lithium battery 12.8V & 25.6V Smart or the Lithium battery 24V range or build a parallel SuperPack bank.Lithium SuperPack batteries – an all in one solution

Conclusion

Whatever your decision when purchasing new batteries, maybe it is time to give the Lithium SuperPack batteries a chance. There’s LiFe after Lead you know – but as I’ve shown that all depends on what you want to achieve. Is it less weight, less volume, maybe it’s capacity or voltage or any of the multitude of factors that go into choosing a battery system.Lithium SuperPack batteries – an all in one solution

Whatever you choose Victron have plenty of choice – with a large range of battery types and sizes: https://www.victronenergy.com/batteries

John Rushworth


Siemens partners WestPark for industrial park in Takoradi

Siemens has announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with WestPark Enterprises to develop an expandable microgrid solution for the fast-growing industrial and business park based in Takoradi, Western Ghana.

The Westpark aims to eliminate many of the challenges faced by companies doing business in Sub-Sahara Africa, such as access to reliable power, water, broadband internet and transport.

 The new industrial park is poised to accelerate the transformation of Takoradi – Ghana’s third-largest city.To lay the foundations for reliable, competitive and efficient energy, WestPark has entered into a partnership with Siemens.

As part of the agreement, Siemens will develop a 250kW microgrid that controls the energy generation for the initial phase of buildings to be constructed at WestPark.

Siemens will design the microgrid so that the first phase of WestPark can be powered entirely by renewable energy and therefore provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution for tenants.

On-site photovoltaic panels will power the microgrid and a back-up battery storage solution will be sourced as well.

The grid can be expanded as more buildings are added with the aim of ensuring that the park remains powered by renewable energy.

According to Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa, “This project is perfectly in line with Siemens’ vision for future business in Ghana and other African countries. As a company, we are continuously looking for new responsible and efficient energy and infrastructure solutions, and our collaboration with WestPark is a good example of how we can support partners with similar goals.”

Siemens is specifically committed to economic growth across Africa, and in doing so in a forward-thinking manner by implementing environmentally sustainable solutions that will help its partners and customers succeed in today’s environmentally-conscious global market.

Siemens AG is a German conglomerate company headquartered in Berlin and Munich and the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe with branch offices abroad. The principal divisions of the company are Industry, Energy, Healthcare, and Infrastructure & Cities, which represent the main activities of the company.


The fronius range of inverters are very suitable for grid-tie solar power systems and are currently being deployed all over the country by Nocheski solar

Ghana:Organizations to shift to solar net metering system

Mr Kwabena Otu Danquah, the Head of Renewable Energy Promotion of the Energy Commission, has advised organisations to shift to the solar net metering system to save them from getting into the higher consumption rate bracket.

 

He said net metering was a mechanism that fed the national grid with surplus solar energy from households while assisting them to save cost and urged consumers to take advantage of it.

Mr Danquah was speaking at a two-day solar industry workshop in Accra organised by the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and the Association of Ghana Solar Industries (AGSI) on current initiatives and opportunities in Ghana’s energy sector.

He said the Energy Commission, in collaboration with the Electricity Company of Ghana, had installed 35 net metering systems in various homes in Accra on a pilot basis.

“We are waiting for the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) for the gazette to ensure that the new solar metering system fully takes off in Ghana,” he said.

Mr Danquah said the Energy Commission had created the enabling environment to ensure the attainment of enough renewable energy targets by 2020.

grid-tie solar power system with battery bank using victron and fronius systems

He said by the provision of the Renewable Energy Act 2011, 832, the Energy Commission, in collaboration with the Ghana Standards Authority, would enforce the law on the importation of renewable energy products that would meet good standards and certification.

He said: “The solar technology we know are perfect but the installation is the problem, hence the need for the Energy Commission to license all electricians and develop a training curriculum to train technicians to ensure good certification of solar.”

Mr Emmanuel Aziebor from the Netherland Development Organisation, a resource person, urged stakeholders in the solar industry to come out with substantive business models to convince the microfinance companies to invest in solar energy.

He advised the technical experts to support and sustain the technology whilst training more technicians on it.

Mr Aziebor said: “We need to have people prepared, trained and exposed to solar energy while looking at the local production of the products in future.”

Mr Eric Omane Acheampong, the President of AGSI, advised the members to develop activities on networking to enable them to assess their progress while sharing knowledge.

Mr James Robinson, the SNV Leader for Energy Sector, Ghana, gave the assurance that the SNV would continue to facilitate the activities of AGSI to sustain and promote solar energy in the country.

SOURCE:ENOCH DARFAH FRIMPONG/GRAPHIC ONLINE


Erratic power supply AKA Dumsor has always been hot topic these past few  years .Pronounced “doom-sore” (or more appropriately dum sɔ, “off and on”) is a popular Ghanaian term used to describe persistent, irregular and unpredictable electric power outages. Everybody from businesses to households has been affected one way or the other. In addition to this most Ghana residents have had to spend 200-300% more than what they used to spend on electricity five years ago.

2016 Its an election year in Ghana and I hear lot of promises from political parties and politicians alike. These promises include, good roads, education, health, jobs and of course Energy .

Can we be brutally honest with each other as Ghana residents?

  • Our energy demands have risen over the years and we require more capacity
  • Energy prices have risen all over the world and reliance on only hydro isn’t sufficient for Ghana anymore
  • There is no political party that can reduce electricity tariffs to rates that were being paid 5-10 years ago. Even if anybody tried, it wouldn’t be sustainable
  • Electricity prices will continue to rise in the coming years and the time to change our mindset is now
  • Ghana needs a serious national policy plan /implementation on energy matters

I have to admit times are pretty hard in Ghana these days. A lot of people are unable to pay their utility bills. Some have actually resorted to either connecting utilities illegally or using less. A good number of people have been caught some of them being foreign business and all .I also know a few people who switch off their refrigerators or deep freezers at night.

Another interesting fact is that for those who are buying new electrical appliances, price becomes the most important or deciding factor so much  such that efficiency is thrown out of the window.

While interacting with people we get these statements quite frequently: So you tell people to use less electricity and conserve it?” or “Your website has ideas on how to buy appliances, how does that relate to saving electricity?” The easiest way to save energy (or electricity) is to use less of it, but we have to be realistic in our approach. Our lifestyles are changing, and with increased pace of development, our need for appliances is increasing and so is our need for energy.  Thus the ideal mix to save energy will involve both conservation and efficiency. Now let us look at what is the difference between the two.

What is Energy Conservation?

Whenever you use less of something that means that you are trying to conserve it. So if you use a 1100cc vehicle instead of a V8 vehicle, it means that you are trying to conserve fuel (among many other reasons why you would prefer to use 1100CC over a V8 motor vehicle). If you switch off lights when they are not needed, then you are conserving energy. When you increase the temperature at which you operate your air conditioner from say, 24 degrees to 25 degrees, you are conserving energy. You also conserve energy when you switch off your DSTV decoder boxes and TVs when they are not in use.

Energy Conservation is all about using energy only when it is required and using it as much as needed for the job and not wasting any amount of it. It requires a conscious effort from the user of energy to make sure that there is no wastage on a regular basis. It requires a lot of behavioral change and needs effort. It may not need any investment always.

So what is Energy Efficiency?

Energy efficiency in contrast means using lesser energy to do the same job. When you buy a car that gives more mileage, you use less fuel to travel the same distance. When you buy a 5 star rated air conditioner instead of a 3 or 2 star rated air conditioner, it means that for the same usage and in same conditions, you use less electricity (for the same temperature at which you operate them). If you use a 5 star rated air conditioner at higher temperature, you double the effect and combine energy efficiency with energy conservation.

Energy efficiency has more impact on your personal finances. An efficient appliance may cost more than an inefficient appliance. Although the additional capital cost may get recovered in form of electricity savings. Energy efficiency may not require physical effort but requires change in people’s buying patterns. It requires knowledge of various products and their efficiencies. If people start buying more of efficient products, manufacturers will start producing more of them.

Conclusion

Both energy efficiency and energy conservation have the same goal: to save energy and the same impact: saves money. Both can individually save energy but when coupled together can save double the amount of energy and money. It depends on your choices as to which one you like to do. A good mix of the two can ensure high savings with low investments and efforts.


I am not that kind of a man, but I have been in the company of other men who in the midst of challenges rather saw them as opportunities to change the paradigm.

I strongly believe that very few energy planners and experts would disagree that Energy Independence for Ghana is an important, even urgent, goal.

But the question remains, is shifting the energy paradigm realistic; and if so, how?

And do our politicians and related institutions have the needed passion and spirit to embrace the new paradigm in our energy sector?

In recent years it has become so glaring that the conventional energy paradigm (fossil fuel tradition) has rapidly lost ground in comparison to the concept of Sustainable Development, as it is based on the intensive use of non-renewable fossil fuels — causing environmental degradation and posing Global Energy Security Risks.

Thus, a modification in our energy paradigm is necessary for our energy independence. A paradigm shift in the goals of energy policy should take place: toward independence, security of supply and climate change. Transition to a sustainable energy system is one of the critical challenges humankind faces in achieving energy independence in the new millennium.

Ghana is a country that has unbelievable solar energy potential; but, sadly, solar energy sources contribute only 0.1% (on-grid+ off-grid) of the total installed capacity for the total installed power capacity of 2104.5 MW in Ghana. (VRA: Facts & Figures).

Some people may say I am overly obsessed with the idea of solar energy for our small but incredibly energy-resource-rich nation.

It’s true – I am! But is it practical for Ghana to actually pursue this objective?

Talking of our potential, Wa — capital of the Upper West Region — has the highest level of solar irradiation (5.524 KWh/m2-day) across the country.

May is the month with the highest solar irradiation (5.897 KWh/m2-day), with August recording the lowest measurement (4.937kWh/m2-day) in Wa.

Akim Oda, conversely, is the location that records the lowest radiation (4.567kWh/m2-day) measurements across the country.

The highest measurement in Akim Oda was recorded in the month of April (5.176kWh/m2-day) and the lowest in August (3.802kWh/m2-day). See Table 1. 

As a nation we are blessed with daily sunshine that averages 5 hours, which ranges between about 7 hours and 4 hours for the northern and southern regions of the nation respectively. Ghana also has annual average daily solar radiation of about 4.5 to 5 KWm2/day. 

Table 1: Summary of Solar irradiation in kWh/m2-day – SWERA Report

Synoptic Station Ground

(kWh/m2-day)

Satellite

(kWh/m2-day)

% Error
Kumasi 4.633 5.155 -11.3
Accra 5.060 5.180 -2.3
Navrongo 5.505 5.765 -4.7
Abetifi 5.150 5.192 -0.8
Akuse 4.814 5.58 -15.9
Wa 5.520 5.729 -3.7
Akim Oda 4.567 5.177 -13.3
Wenchi 5.020 5.093 -1.5
Ho 5.122 5.223 -2.0
Kete Krachi 5.280 5.345 -1.3
Takoradi 5.011 5.200 -3.8
Yendi 5.370 5.632 -4.8
Bole 5.323 5.570 -4.6

 

Anti-islanding made easy: the anti-islanding box  The anti-islanding box is a complete pre-wired and easy to install anti-islanding device consisting of a Ziehl anti-islanding relay (model UFR1001E or model SPI1021), the required circuit breakers and a 63A contactor. For specifications of the Ziehl relay

Anti-islanding made easy: the anti-islanding box
The anti-islanding box is a complete pre-wired and easy to install requured by law in certain countries for net meteringinstallations

Assuming we are to use only 23,854km² which is 10% of the total land area (238,585 km²) of Ghana to harness the sun’s energy with PV panels of 15% conversion efficiency, then Ghana would harvest 4,114 TerraWattHours of energy per year. 

This amount is equal to 2.42billion barrels of oil.

Consequently, if we juxtapose this amount with our current oil production in the Jubilee Field, then it is about 27 times the current crude oil production of Ghana per year.” See Chart A on Ghana PV Output.

In Ghana, Solar PV applications are gradually receiving acceptance in most places. However, despite improvements in local Research and Development (R&D) efforts, the body of knowledge on these technologies and their market potentials is considerably inadequate.

Launching major national initiatives on these technologies — such as the President’s 200,000 solar rooftops for households — requires a robust knowledge base and capacity.

In all, PV technologies are showing increasing promise in terms of efficiency improvements and cost. The estimated lifetime of PV modules are 25 years, and this makes them exceptionally attractive for investors.

The victron 500va  phoenix offgrid inverter is excellent for small offgrid solar installations.its connectible to both  Apple and Android smartphones, tablets, macbooks and other devices (VE.Direct Bluetooth Smart dongle needed)

The victron 500va phoenix offgrid inverter is excellent for small offgrid solar installations.its connectible to both Apple and Android smartphones, tablets, macbooks and other devices (VE.Direct Bluetooth Smart dongle needed)

Today, except for the Solar PV Panels produced in Kpone-Tema by Strategic Power Solutions (SPS) — a subsidiary of Strategic Security Systems International Limited, almost 80% the PV modules on the Ghanaian market are imported.

Solar PV systems can be extensively used for a wide range of electrical energy requirements: including solar home systems, water pumping, refrigeration and telecommunications that will reduce the load curve of electricity demand.

It has been estimated that solar rural electrification is about 30% cheaper than the cost of grid extension to rural communities that are about 18 to 20km from the nearest grid station.

However, there are still economic and institutional obstacles that limit this ability to self-generate power. For instance, while it is practical to install solar panels on a home, it is more difficult to scale-up these systems for commercial and industrial-sized projects. Scale is a critical issue in energy generation, as with scale comes lower project costs and greater efficiency.

For privately distributed generation projects, both small and large, to make greater contributions toward our national energy independence, there needs to be continued evolution of the bold policies that first introduced grid-connection rights and net metering in our renewable energy act.

The government must as a matter of urgency assist all consumers anywhere in the country to benefit from the net-metering incentive for solar power consumers. Again, due to the high upfront cost, government must establish a renewable energy revolving credit fund whereby solar consumers can borrow money to finance solar systems without making large up-front payments and without paying high interest rates to banks or private financiers.

Also, the PURC must establish a coherent pricing tariff for distributors to buy power from private solar-farm developers. This could unlock an untapped source of clean, reliable, economical power for Ghana.

While not easy to accomplish, these advances are achievable – and, importantly, they don’t need to cost the tax payers any money. However, they depend on the political will and leadership of our energy-sector authorities.

This an original story by Maxmillian Kwarteng and has been featured on BFT online


Apparently the economics for backup power alone just aren’t that attractive.

Tesla has quietly removed all references to its 10-kilowatt-hour residential battery from the Powerwall website, as well as the company’s press kit. The company’s smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains.

The change was initially made without explanation, which prompted industry insiders to speculate. Today, a Tesla representative confirmed the 10-kilowatt-hour option has been discontinued.

“We have seen enormous interest in the Daily Powerwall worldwide,” according to an emailed statement to GTM. “The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall at this time.”

The 10-kilowatt-hour option was marketed as a backup power supply capable of 500 cycles, at a price to installers of $3,500. Tesla was angling to sell the battery to consumers that want peace of mind in the event the grid goes down, like during another Superstorm Sandy. The problem is that the economics for a lithium-ion backup battery just aren’t that attractive.

Even at Tesla’s low wholesale price, a 500-cycle battery just doesn’t pencil out against the alternatives, especially once the inverter and other system costs are included. State-of-the-art backup generators from companies like Generac and Cummins sell for $5,000 or less. These companies also offer financing, which removes any advantage Tesla might claim with that tactic, as GTM’s Jeff St. John pointed out last spring.

“Even some of the deep cycling lead acid batteries offer 1,000 cycles and cost less than half of the $3,500 price tag for Tesla Powerwall,” said Ravi Manghani, senior energy storage analyst at GTM Research. “For pure backup applications only providing 500 cycles, lead acid batteries or gensets are way more economical.”In Ghana  good  quality lead acid batteries such as the AGM telecom batteries retail at $219/Kw/hr and can be purchased at nocheski Solar (Victron Energy partner ) in the port city of  Tema. These AGM batteries have 1800 cycles at a D.O.D of 30% or 750 cycles at a D.O.D of 50%

 AGM telecom battery by victron energy

AGM telecom battery by victron energy

In California, batteries can benefit from the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). But California regulators have indicated that battery systems need to be able to cycle five times a week in order to be eligible, which would exclude Tesla’s bigger battery.

“In current discussions on SGIP program overhaul, it is very likely that stronger performance requirements may get added, which will make a 10-kilowatt-hour/500 cycles product outright ineligible (if cycled only once a week), or last only 2 years (if cycled every weekday for about 500 cycles over 2 years),” said Manghani. “In short, the market’s expectation is that for a $3,500 price tag, the product needs to have more than just 500 cycles (i.e., only backup capabilities).”

Backup power alone simply doesn’t have as strong a case as using a battery for self-consumption. That said, the opportunities for self-consumption are still few and far between.

A GTM Research analysis for residential storage, purely for time-of-use shifting or self-consumption. found that the economics only pan out in certain conditions. In Hawaii, for instance, the economics of solar-plus-storage under the state’s new self supply tariff looks only slightly more attractive than solar alone under the grid supply option.

“So it comes down to the question of customer adoption of a relatively new technology for only slightly improved economics,” said Manghani. “This doesn’t mean residential customers are not deploying energy storage,” but he noted that these were the early adopters.

Tesla appears to be focusing its efforts on first movers and the markets where storage for energy arbitrage and self-consumption makes economic sense.

While the 10-kilowatt-hour option has been removed, the Powerwall website continues to offer specifications for Tesla’s 6.4-kilowatt-hour battery designed for daily cycling applications, such as load shifting. The battery is warrantied for 10 years, or roughly 5,000 cycles, with a 100 percent depth of discharge. The wholesale price to installers is $3,000.

The smaller battery is often marketed as 7 kilowatt-hours, which would appear to have a price of $429 per kilowatt-hour. In realty, it’s a 6.4 kilowatt-hour battery at a price of $469 per kilowatt-hour.

A bigger, cheaper or more integrated battery product could soon be added to Tesla’s lineup. In January, CEO Elon Musk announced a new Powerwall option will be released this summer.

“We’ve got the Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack, which we have a lot of trials underway right now around the world. We’ve seen very good results,” said Musk during a talk to Tesla car owners in Paris, The Verge reports. “We’ll be coming out with version two of the Powerwall probably around July, August this year, which will see [a] further step-change in capabilities.”

At this point, it’s unclear what the “step-change” will be.

 

 


Why your Lead Acid Battery is all Swollen Up

Working in the solar Energy industry in Ghana, I often come across several batteries that are swollen up .These mostly lead acid batteries have often than not, been purchased at very high prices not too long ago. On this particular occasion our team was conducting a survey at a prospects home in Tema when I noticed that all of her eight 100Ah batteries were swollen.

Typically a 100Ah battery will cost between $200-$300 depending on quality .In addition to this, most suppliers in Ghana give little or no warranty even though some global brands like Victron Energy give up to two year warranty on their batteries .This article aims to reveal to the public why lead acid batteries swell-up and how to avoid the problem.

Sealed lead acid batteries – both AGM and gelled electrolyte can swell up and expand sometimes. This happens due to the construction of lead acid batteries which is referred to as “recombinant”. They are constructed in such a way to allow absorption of gasses released during the chemical process inside the battery.

The positive and negative plates are placed very close together with only the thickness of the divider separating them. They are tightly secured in the cell cavity resulting in very little extra space inside the battery. When the cell plates expand, it exerts pressure on the inside walls of the battery. This situation can cause the battery case to swell resulting in possible splits and cracks at various points of the battery.

Why Do Battery Cell Plates Expand?

The cell plates most often expand due to overcharging of the battery. The battery may also expand due to shorting of the terminals of the battery. Both these situations results in heating up of the cell plates inside the battery. The lead of the cell plates has a high expansion rate when heated.

The outcome is that the battery experiences extreme pressure inside that swells up and deforms it. The swelling-up of the battery may also cause great damage to the internal components and parts.

Why your Lead Acid Battery is all Swollen Up ,How to Avoid Swelling Up of the Battery?

Overcharging or short-circuiting of the battery is the only reason for swelling up of the lead acid battery. The problem is not inherent in the battery itself. In order to avoid swelling up of the battery you need to tackle the underlying cause of the problem.

You need to follow proper instructions in charging the battery. The culprit may be that you are using a wrong charger when charging the battery. If the charger is providing too much current, this may be the cause for battery swelling up. For instance, if you used 24V charger to charge a 12V battery it will most probably result in overcharging of the battery.

Whatever the reason for overcharging of the device, the end result is the swelling up of the battery. To avoid the prospect of overcharging or short-circuiting of the battery, you need to take the following precautions:

  • Use the right type of charger that is fully compatible with the battery.
  • Ensure proper polarity when connecting the charger to the battery
  • Shield the battery terminals to avoid short-circuiting of the battery
  • Use a charger whose maximum charging capacity is lower than the battery
  • Using a good quality charger
Victron Energy Blue smart charger is a good choice for small battery banks in Ghana

Victron Energy Blue smart charger is a good choice for small battery banks in Ghana

 Battery charging tip: increase battery life with Victron 4-step adaptive charging

Victron developed the adaptive charge curve. The 4-step adaptive charge curve is the result of years of research and testing.

The Victron four-step adaptive charge curve solves the 3 main problems of the 3 step curve:

  • Battery Safe mode

In order to prevent excessive gassing, Victron has invented the ‘Battery Safe Mode’. The battery Safe Mode will limit the rate of voltage increase once the gassing voltage has been reached. Research has shown that this will reduce internal gassing to a safe level.

  • Variable absorption time

Based on the duration of the bulk stage, the charger calculates how long the absorption time should be in order to fully charge the battery. If the bulk time is short, this means the battery was already charged and the resulting absorption time will also be short, whereas a longer bulk time will also result in a longer absorption time.

  • Storage mode

After completion of the absorption period the battery should be fully charged, and the voltage is lowered to the

float or standby level. If no discharge occurs during the next 24 hours, the voltage is reduced even further and the battery goes into storage mode. The lower storage voltage reduces corrosion of the positive plates.

Once every week the charge voltage is increased to the absorption level for a short period to compensate for selfdischarge (Battery Refresh mode

The above tips will help you to protect your battery from swelling up and expanding. Taking precautions will not only protect your battery from being damaged but it will also minimize the threat of fire caused due to overheating of the battery.

Click here for more information on Victron Energy AGM & Gel batteries


Air conditioning & the rising electricity tariffs in Ghana

My Nigerian friends often say Ghanaian folk have a signature look, very dark skin and red eyes. This they claim is as a result of the scorching sun in Ghana. Ghana is hot o…….

Average temperatures often range between  35-40 degree Celsius with high levels of humidity . Due to the nature of the weather in Ghana Air-conditioning is no longer a luxury.Most homes and offices who can afford , have invested in one form of cooling or the other while those who cant have settled for fans.But what happens when there is erratic power supply and load shedding  AKA Dumsor  in Ghana? I bet that is another topic for another day.

little children cooling off in bowls of water at home on a sunny day in Accra

Recent electricity price hikes in Ghana have made Air Conditioners a pain point for most who are concerned about their electricity bills. Electricity bills increase significantly when an air conditioner is added to the list of appliances in a household. Although it is difficult to significantly reduce the “big” impact of an air conditioner on your electricity bills, it can be managed by choosing the right technology, and following the right installation/maintenance/operation procedure and also putting into consideration the insulation of room where the air conditioner is being operated.The latest and the most efficient technology that is available on market today is the Inverter Technology for air conditioners. Inverter technology is designed in such a way as to save 30-50% of electricity (units consumed) compared to regular air conditioning systems.At Nocheski ,we live up to our promise of driving your business with technology and we recommend the use of energy efficient appliances such as inverter Air-conditioners from brands including LG,Daikin and Samsung , Gencool just to name a few.

How do air conditioners work?

For most people, air conditioner just throws cool air at the temperature one sets it at. But does it really work that way? In principle, an air-conditioner during the cooling process, takes the indoor air, cools it by passing it through evaporator and releases it back in the room. It is quite opposite to how our good old air coolers used to work. Air coolers used to take outside air, cool it with water and throw it in. But air conditioners just work on internal air. Along with evaporator an air conditioner also has a compressor that compresses the gas (refrigerant) in the AC to cool it that in turn cools the incoming internal air from the room.

In a regular air conditioner:

The compressor is either off or on. When it is on, it works at full capacity and consumes the maximum electricity it is designed to consume. When the thermostat reaches the temperature level set in the AC, the compressor stops and the fan (in AC) continues to operate. When the thermostat senses that the temperature has increased, the compressor starts again.

Air Conditioners with Inverter Technology

The inverter technology works like an accelerator in a car. When compressor needs more power, it gives it more power. When it needs less power, it gives less power. With this technology, the compressor is always on, but draws less power or more power depending on the temperature of the incoming air and the level set in the thermostat. The speed and power of the compressor is adjusted appropriately. Originally developed in Japan for use in air-conditioning systems, digital inverter technology is now applied globally in appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and even microwave ovens.

Samsung has a new line-up of household appliances for the digital home that saves on cost and offers more features.

Samsung has a new line-up of household appliances for the digital home that saves on cost and offers more features.

What is benefit of Inverter Technology?

Every air conditioner is designed for a maximum peak load. So a 1.5hp AC is designed for a certain size of room and 1 hp for a different size. But not all rooms are of same size. A regular air conditioner of 1.5hp capacity will always run at peak power requirement when the compressor is running. An air conditioner with inverter technology will run continuously but will draw only that much power that is required to keep the temperature stable at the level desired. So it kind of automatically adjusts its capacity based on the requirement of the room it is cooling thus requiring less electricity for efficient operation although air conditioner with Inverter Technology adjusts its capacity based on the room requirement, it is very important to install a right sized air conditioner in a room. Please make sure that you evaluate the room and air conditioner capacity before you make a purchase.For further clarifications on this subject ,you may contact our produuct specialist in Tema  here


“Just  2% of Ghana’s land can provide 924GWh of power annually” ( Maxmillian Kwarteng  ,Gramax Energy Group)

Before I begin, permit me to ask this, if Oil and Gas for Thermal Power Plants and the other fossils are that “Cheap” as some want us to believe, why then are electricity rates still going up?Every hour, the sun radiates more energy onto our earth than the entire human population uses in one whole year. The technology required to harness the power of the sun is available now. Solar power alone could provide all of the energy Ghanaians consume and there is no shortage of solar energy like there has been with the Akosombo Dam in recent days. The truth is, we do not need advanced math skills to follow and perform the solar arithmetic to prove that Ghana’s energy independence could be achieved with solar energy.

Every square meter (1m²) of the earth’s surface, when exposed to direct sunlight, receives about 1000 watts (1 kilowatt) of energy from the sun’s light. In reality, this power per hour for every square meter (1m²) might be more or less, depending on the angle of sunlight, which changes with the time of day, and the geographical location. On average, the sub Saharan region of Africa receives about (3 – 4 kilowatt per hour) of solar energy.

Nonetheless, studies have revealed promising potential for this resource in Ghana. According to the SWERA Ghana Project report, Wa, the capital of the Upper West region, has the highest level of solar irradiation (5.524 KWh/m2-day) across the country. May is the month with the highest solar irradiation (5.897 KWh/m2-day), with August recording the lowest measurement (4.937kWh/m2-day) in Wa. Akim Oda on the contrary is the location that records the lowest radiation (4.567kWh/m2-day) measurements across the country. The highest measurement in Akim Oda was recorded in the month of April (5.176kWh/m2-day) and the lowest in August (3.802kWh/m2-day).

 

Table 1: Summary of Solar irradiation in kWh/m2-day – SWERA Report

Synoptic Station Ground

(kWh/m2-day)

Satellite

(kWh/m2-day)

% Error
Kumasi 4.633 5.155 -11.3
Accra 5.060 5.180 -2.3
Navrongo 5.505 5.765 -4.7
Abetifi 5.150 5.192 -0.8
Akuse 4.814 5.58 -15.9
Wa 5.520 5.729 -3.7
Akim Oda 4.567 5.177 -13.3
Wenchi 5.020 5.093 -1.5
Ho 5.122 5.223 -2.0
Kete Krachi 5.280 5.345 -1.3
Takoradi 5.011 5.200 -3.8
Yendi 5.370 5.632 -4.8
Bole 5.323 5.570 -4.6

 

This estimate tells that sunlight will provide useful solar energy for about 4 to 6 hours per day because during the early hours and late hours of the day the angle of the sun’s light is too low.Therefore, let us assume for every square meter (1m²) exposed to continuous direct sunlight [in an optimal geographical location] for an average of 4.5 hours a day, we will have received 4.5 hours x 1000 watts = 4500 watthours (4.5kwh/m²) of solar energy during the course of a day. It would be great if 100% of the sunshine became electricity, but solar energy and electricity are not the same. Technology accomplishes the conversion of solar energy to electricity.

Revelers enjoy sun and water at Ghana's famous Labadi beach in Accra

Revelers enjoy sun and water at Ghana’s famous Labadi beach in Accra

Conversion of one form of energy to another always causes a loss of energy. In other words, the new form of energy will be less than the original. Efficiency is the word used to describe the difference in power resulting from the conversion of one form of energy to another. The efficiency of commercially available solar panels (PV) is now between 15% – 40.7%. This means that when a solar panel converts the sun’s light to electricity, only about 15 to 40.7 percent of the energy in the sunlight becomes electricity. The same thing is true of gasoline in your car and other thermal engines. Your car’s engine can only convert about 25 percent of the energy in gasoline to mechanical energy that turns the wheels.

With an average efficiency of 15 to 40.7 percent, every square meter (1m²) of solar photovoltaic cells (PV) would produce (4.5 kilowatthours of solar energy multiplied by 15% =) between 0.68 kilowatthours of electric energy per day.

Solar panels (PV) covering an area of 100m²(1 Plot of Land) would produce 100 x .68 = 68 kilowatthours of electricity per day. It is worth noting that 68kwh per day is a lot of electricity for a single family home.

 

Let’s juxtapose this arithmetic nationwide to the unused land surface:

– Size of Unreserved forest land in Ghana = 5 x 10³km² è 5 x 10⁹m².

– Assuming a Conversion Efficiency (Solar Panels) of 15%.

– Average Solar Irradiation 4.5kilowatthours (kwh) è 4500wh/day

– Annual average solar radiation = 4.5 x 365 è 1642.5kwh/m².y

– Assuming a Performance ratio, coefficient for losses of 0.75

So, 0.15 x 1642.5kwh/m².y x 5 x 10⁹m² x 0.75  è 923.9Gwh/y

in May 2015 #DumorMustStop campaign was spearheaded by Ghanaian actress Yvonne Nelson and was patronized by many other celebrities

in May 2015 #DumorMustStop campaign was spearheaded by Ghanaian actress Yvonne Nelson and was patronized by many other celebrities

Like in Germany where Solar energy powered 50% of its midday electricity needs on May 26, 2012, this amount of energy can be used for same in Ghana.It is interesting to note that this amount of energy has been calculated from an area of 5,000km² which is only 2% of the total surface area of Ghana.In 2004, Ghanaians consumed 5,158 gigawatthours (GWh) of electricity. NEDCO alone contributed 340GWh out of this figure. This contribution from NEDCO is only one third of my estimate of the calculated solar potential. It is estimated that about half of this amount is consumed by domestic (or residential) consumers for household uses such as lighting, ironing, refrigeration, air conditioning, television, radio and the like.

In conclusion, let me say that the improved technology surrounding solar power is very significant. It has brought clean energy within practical use. Given the significant environmental benefits, there is a very strong case for government intervention to accelerate the switch to solar power. The reluctance to switch to solar power is delaying our national progress in living standards.

Source: Maxmillian Kwarteng | Gramax Energy Group – GEG | [email protected]