EnGo – Smart Solar Street light pole is made by   EnGoPlanet ,the  sustainable solar lighting experts   recently launched a stylish new street light pole product which can even be retrofitted.The attachable design is of a solar cylinder module which can be quickly and easily mounted on any suitable pole for easy installation and disassembly.

Using 6 slim solar panels, with a solar cell efficiency of up to 21.2%, fixed to a hexagonal frame, ensures that half of them will face sun light at any time of the day.

The off-vertical cluster arrangement of the panels makes them less vulnerable to high-winds, less likely to accumulated dust and grime, and easier to clean.

The energy is harvested by a Victron SmartSolar MPPT 75-15. Bluetooth enabled, SmartSolar MPPTs include features which protect the battery from being too deeply drained, and have intelligent dynamic charge algorithms which work with the seasons to ensure the battery will at least periodically be returned to 100% charge.

EnGoPlanet use their own high-quality Lithium batteries, making the unit suitable for off-grid applications where night lighting is required. EnGo – Smart Solar Street light pole can also be used where a grid connection is present – in which case the units will run from their own batteries except where long-continued spells of poor weather require a power supplement to be drawn from the grid. This option is recommended for locations which are often cloudy, or shaded.

Alternatively, grid connected poles can be supplied without battery. Energy produced by the panels will be sent directly to the grid. Savings of up to 80% are possible.

EnGo – Smart Solar Street light pole  installations are also able to collect valuable environmental data which can be interrogated online. Other applications for the poles are for uses such as CCTV, sensors, wifi hotspots, and even phone charging points.

At Nocheski, we  look forward to installing  EnGo – Smart Solar Street light pole  soon

Justin Tyers


Intersolar Europe 2019 is almost upon us and will be held at Neue Messe München from May 15-17, 2019.

As ever Victron Energy will be exhibiting. Our stand this year is number B2.480, where many new and updated products will be on display. Four key new products and one new product range are:

  • EasySolar-II 48/3000/35-32 MPPT 250/70 GX
  • MultiPlus-II 48/3000/35-32 230V GX
  • MultiPlus-II 48/5000/70-50 230V
  • Inverter RS 48/6000 230V Smart Solar
  • SmartSolar MPPT VE.Can range

These new products will be launched at Intersolar, however in this preview blog we can delve into a little more detail and compare the new models above with previous models where appropriate.

EasySolar-II 48/3000/35-32 MPPT 250/70 GX

Building on the existing EasySolar (which contains a MultiPlus Inverter/Charger and BlueSolar MPPT Solar Charge controller) this new model has a number of improved features and brings other welcome changes.

The EasySolar-II 3000VA GX (when compared to the earlier EasySolar) is based upon the Multiplus-II, giving the whole unit a more compact and modern design, along with improved standby power efficiency, reduced weight and volume.

The GX suffix indicates that there is a GX device for control and monitoring built-in. A GX device is usually a standalone device such as a Color Control GX, Venus GX, Octo GX or a CANvu GX – but in this instance it is a new integrated GX device, which is already connected to the internal Multiplus-II and MPPT charge controller.

In addition there is a small two line display showing what the unit is doing, and if relevant it can also show a detailed error code  – no more counting blinking LEDs!

The EasySolar-II 3000VA GX allows connection to CAN-bus battery management systems, the VRM remote data monitoring portal via Ethernet or built-in WiFi, enables ESS functionality, and much more.

Another update is the AC and DC rated circuit breaker protection is no longer supplied. This change is based on feedback from our customers who are now able to connect the EasySolar-II GX to their own AC and DC fuses or circuit protection – in other words that which is best suited to a particular application and any regional requirements.

The integral MPPT has had the input voltage increased from 150V to 250V, giving greater flexibility when choosing solar panel configurations. In addition, because the MPPT is Victron Smart, there’s all the usual VictronConnect App functionality people have come to expect from Smart enabled products.

If paralleling and using three phase with the EasySolar-II 3000VA GX, there can only be one GX device in such a system. Indeed one GX device is enough and therefore it does not make sense to buy three of the EasySolar-II 3000VA GXs and put them in a three phase installation. Instead what you do is buy one and then buy two normal MultiPlus-IIs with the same rating.

MultiPlus-II 48/3000/35-32 230V GX

This model is the existing MultiPlus-II 3000, with the addition of built-in GX features. It has all the advantages that you’ve come to expect from GX devices. We’ll keep both products in stock after intersolar Europe 2019.

Like the EasySolar-II 3000VA GX there is a small two line display showing what the unit is doing, and if relevant it can also show a detailed error code  – no more counting blinking LEDs!

Building a split- or three-phase system, or parallel system, with the MultiPlus-II GX models can be done. But there can only be one GX device in such a system. Indeed one GX device is enough and therefore it does not make sense to buy three of the MultiPlus-II 3000VA GXs and put them in a three phase installation. Instead what you do is buy one and then buy two normal MultiPlus-IIs with the same rating.

Another option is of course to use multiple normal MultiPlus-IIs, and then choose a GX device to your liking.

Below you can see the plethora of available connection options available on the GX version. Click the image to enlarge it.

MultiPlus-II 48/5000/70-50 230V

This new MultiPlus-II is simply a larger version of the existing 3000 version. See the product page and choose the datasheet to compare the new MultiPlus-II 48/5000/70-50 to the MultiPlus-II 48/3000/35-32.

Inverter RS 48/6000 230V Smart Solar

Yet another exciting new product, Victron Smart too.

Here are some key features of the RS 6000:

  • Built-in solar charge controller with 450V max PV input. Previously the highest max PV voltage of Victron Energy products was 250V. PV specification limits are 450V, 18A in, 4000Wp
  • Victron’s first all in one inverter+solar charge controller
  • HF inverter – a first for Victron Energy
  • Excellent voltage stability
  • Handy 4 x 20 character display display

The image below shows the bottom cover removed, to reveal various connections which include 1 x VE.Direct and 2 x VE.Can connections. Click the image to enlarge it.

Note: The Inverter RS 6000 cannot be configured for parallel operation nor three phase at present.

SmartSolar MPPT VE.Can

Last in the list of new products presented today is the SmartSolar MPPT VE.Can series.

There will be a series of 150V models available, as well as 250V. More detailed news will be shared in a future blog post after Intersolar Europe 2019 .

More information, pricing and availability

More technical information will be made available in the coming days and weeks: product pages, datasheets, and other documentation is being finished and made available on our website.

For availability and pricing, email [email protected]

Conclusion

As is often the case Intersolar  Europe 2019 serves as a launchpad for many new Victron Energy products. That doesn’t mean other new products aren’t released throughout the year – it’s simply that Intersolar Europe 2019 is one of the best places to see, learn and try the latest Victron products.

Oh! – And of course there’s Victron’s infamous Intersolar Stand Party to attend…

John Rushworth

Links

Intersolar Europe Website – https://www.intersolar.de/en/home.html

Intersolar Europe Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Intersolar


Victron Energy CANvu GX …information you can touch! It’s so convenient to be able access all your system information via touch screen – and because the Victron Energy GX is a sealed-unit, you can install it in some challenging environments!

P67 rating of the Victron Energy  CANvu GX means that it is completely protected against dust ingress, and can even withstand half an hour’s immersion in water 1 metre deep!

The Victron Energy CANvu GX is the latest addition to the Venus family – the information gateway which allows you to set-up, monitor and manage all the component parts of your private energy installation. In exactly the same way as you use the CCGXVenus GX; and Octo GX – the Victron Energy CANvu GX gathers data from your Inverter/ChargerBattery MonitorSolar Charge Controller, and batteries to allow optimal communication between components, maximising battery-charging and solar harvest.

And, of course, it allows you to interrogate the status of each device. But amongst the whole family, it is the Victron Energy CANvu GX which is ideal when the information is required to be displayed outdoors, or in difficult environments.

The arrival of the Victron Energy CANvu GX will be welcomed particularly by those users who work in the open. It is entirely at home on board vessels at sea, or on building sites – in applications such as the control panel of Hybrid Generators. It is also ideal in factories where industrial processes are wet, or dusty.


The unit comes with a dash/fascia mounting kit:


Please note that in order to operate the Victron Energy  CANvu GX you will need an IO Extender and wiring kit, and that this must be ordered separately:

The full colour screen of the Victron Energy  CANvu GX will be familiar both in appearance and size to anyone who has seen or used the CCGX. The system offers 3 VE.Direct ports and one USB port; a second, separate CAN-bus port; and it can receive digital inputs. It doesn’t have a buzzer. WiFi is not built-in, but a USB WiFi dongle can be attached. A comparison of features between all members of the GX family can be found here.

Justin Tyers


Solar Cloth:producing power from textiles everywhere .we always need to keep our eye on emerging technologies and how they may relate to our products, both now and in the future. Solar cloth is one such technology that has certainly got me excited. You can see the solar cloth panels embedded in the mainsail of the yacht above, which is ideal as deck area for conventional modules is limited on sailing yachts.

Solar cloth is not just for boats though. Yesterday I spoke to Alain Janet from solarclothsystem.com and learned that it can also be integrated into canopies, to provide power for outdoor events for example or indeed to recharge electric vehicles. Even an awning for an RV or overland 4 x 4 could probably use such a system too.

However, Alain is a sailmaker to trade and naturally it is in that field that his first system is to be deployed, with UK Sailmakers (France). The UK Sailmakers group has over 50 lofts and service centers around the world, so to my mind they are well placed to bring this technology to market.

Below is a press release, concerning these new PowerSails.

SOLAR SAILS TO POWER TRANS-ATLANTIC RACER

Defi Martinique

Frenchman Daniel Ecalard has entered his Open 50 DEFI MARTINIQUE in the 3,500-mile Route du Rhum from St. Malo, France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. His goal: to complete the race with zero carbon emissions. Ecalard plans to carry no diesel for generating electricity in a boat that bristles with electronics that do everything from communicating and navigating to making water and moving the boat’s canting keel.

He will use the boat as a test bed for clean energy solutions. His primary source of power will be solar panels laminated into his Titanium® mainsail to cover all the boat’s electrical needs. The sails are being made by UK Sailmakers France, which has developed the technology for solar cells that can be either laminated to new sails or affixed to existing sails. This exclusive technology is called PowerSails and is being developed by Alain Janet, owner of UK Sailmakers France.

These cutting-edge, light-weight films can generate electricity in low light and indirect sunlight. They are supple enough to handle the sail being luffed as well as folded. The panels will be put in the upper part of the main, above the third reef.

Janet says that the mainsail for DEFI MARTINIQUE is expected to produce on average 500 Watts per hour, budget allowing. Ecalard’s boat was built in 1998 for that year’s BOC race. In 2002-2003, Brad Van Liew won the 50-footer division of the 30,000-mile Alone Around Race by winning all four legs with this boat. She still holds the 24-hour distance record for a singlehanded 50-footer when she went 345 miles in a day. In 2008, she won her class in the Newport Bermuda race. In 2010 the boat starred in the Hollywood movie “Charlie St. Cloud” where Solar Cloth:producing power from textiles everywhere

Ecalard’s ultimate goal is to build a sailing freighter for working the inter-island trade in the Caribbean. For more information about this project go to: http://seafretcaraibes.fr/

Credits

Our thanks to Adam Loory of UK Sailmakers International for the interview and text above, with RDR (Route du Rhum) skipper Daniel Ecalard.

As a footnote, we also wish Alain all the best for his PowerSails project. And if there is a place for Victron to assist, then I’m sure we will as emerging markets and technologies are surely a key to business growth for all. So, if on your Victron travels you too come across something new, that is noteworthy of a post here on the Victron blog, do let us know.

John Rushworth

 


Official opening: VICTRON-Competence Centre, Klagenfurt

A little over a year ago Victron Energy in association with Austrian Victron Energy dealer E-BOX Off-Grid Power Systems, together with HTL1 Lastenstraße and their headmaster Dr. Michael Archer forged a partnership to utilise Victron Energy products for their varied educational program – to build a ‘Competence Centre’.

As a result on Thursday, 5th December 2018, the new VICTRON-Kompetenzzentrum (VICTRON-Competence Centre) for ‘Renewable Energy and Storage Technology’ was opened at the school.

HTL1 Lastenstraße is a Higher Technical Institute in Klagenfurt, southern Austria, with around 1100 students and 120 teachers. The school trains engineers in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and mechatronics. It has around 34 workshops and laboratories as well as several competence centres. Another focus is ‘Land und Umwelttechnik’ (agricultural engineering and environmental technology).

This all makes HTL1 a unique training centre, not only for students from Carinthia but southern, eastern and western Austria. With the new VICTRON-Competence Centre training courses will specialise in the fields of energy storage technology, photovoltaics and energy management. Besides these courses Victron Energy have also been welcomed to run their own special courses at the school. In addition, interested companies will also have the opportunity to use this modern infrastructure for their own education and training events.

HTL1 Lastenstraße – The school is equipped with many different, modern photovoltaic-systems.

The school were particularly pleased to receive a visit from Victron Energy sales manager Leo Yntema  for the opening. Here’s a brief video (in German) of that visit and a few photos from the opening event.

https://youtu.be/r9wasVuZIUU

From left to right: Manfred Hartner – Managing Director of  E-BOX Off-Grid Power Systems, Dr. Michael Archer – Principal of HTL1 Lastenstraße and Leo Yntema of Victron Energy.

A student explains one of the 5 Workstations and its components at the opening.

From left to right: Andreas Albel, the teacher who is responsible for the VICTRON-Kompetenzzentrum and Leo Yntema of Victron Energy.

Equipment utilised

There are 5 workstations utilising Victron Energy equipment. Each workstation is equipped with its own separate 3kWp photovoltaic-system, plus each of the panels can be switched on and off separately.

Workstation 1: components / power storage / 3-phase
  • 3 x MultiPlus 48/3000/35-16
  • 1 x Color Control GX
  • 1 x Battery Monitor BMV-700
  • 4 x LiFePO4 battery 12.8V/90Ah – BMS
  • 1 x Battery Management System VE.Bus
Workstation 2: components / power storage / 1-phase
  • 1 x MultiPlus 48/3000/35-16
  • 1 x Color Control GX
  • 1 x Wall mount enclosure for Color Control GX
  • 1 x Battery Monitor BMV-700
Workstation 3: components / power storage / 1-phase
  • 1 x ECOmulti 24/3000/70-50 2,3 kWh LiFePO4
  • 2 x LiFePO4 battery 12.8V/90Ah – BMS
Workstation 4: Components / power storage / DC coupled
  • 1 x BlueSolar MPPT 150/85 CAN-bus
  • 1 x Wall mount enclosure for Color Control GX
  • 1 x Battery Monitor BMV-700
  • 1 x Venus GX
  • 24 x OPzV 200 Batteries
Workstation 5: Components / power storage / DC coupled
  • 1 x EasySolar 48/3000/35 MPPT 150/70 with Color Control GX built-in
  • 24 x OPzV 200 Batteries

Conclusion

It’s great to see the new VICTRON-Competence Centre now open and we trust it will serve as a valuable resource for the school and the young engineers of tomorrow.

This artcle was orriginally published on the victron blog by John Rushworth on January 31st, 2019

Links

Interview with Dr. Archer – https://www.victronenergy.com/blog/2017/11/13/back-to-school-with-victron-energy/

HTL1 Lastenstraße Klagenfurt Website – http://htl1-klagenfurt.at/index.php/en/

HTL1 Lastenstraße Klagenfurt on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HTL1.Klagenfurt/

E-BOX Off-Grid Power Systems Website – http://www.e-box.co.at


We’ve just added two Bluetooth enabled Inverters to our range. The new-build Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter Smart models are rated at 1600VA and 2000VA and we have models for 12V, 24V and 48V systems.

  • Dynamic cut-off/intelligent restart
  • We’ve added  48V models to the range
  • Bluetooth communication – allows easy set-up and monitoring on your phone, laptop or smart device
  • Slimline design allows for discreet wall-mounting
  • Eco mode

Bluetooth …and VE.Direct

Bluetooth has been built in to the Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter Smart – allowing your power consumption to be monitored, or the settings changed, straight from your phone, tablet or laptop via our VictronConnectapp – which is free to use. Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter Smart also has a VE.Direct communication port allowing wired connection to a tablet or laptop via an optional VE.Direct to USB cable. The unit can then be set-up and programmed using VE Configure software.

Built in Bluetooth allows you to view live data on your mobile phone, laptop or smart device via our VictronConnect app – which is free to use.

Dynamic Cut-off

Your battery is protected by a user-defined low voltage alarm.

The alarm will be followed by an automatic cut-off – the value of which is Dynamic: For example, if the inverter is providing a lot of power at the time a low-voltage condition is detected, the unit will perform its disconnect at a lower battery-voltage than if it were providing only a modest amount of power. When only a modest amount of power is being drawn, cut-off will take place immediately a low-voltage condition exists. See the Manual for full details.

Intelligent re-start

A cut-off will be followed by three intelligent restart attempts. If the cut-off was triggered by a sudden but temporary drop in voltage, the load will be reconnected. A thirty-second delay ensures that the increase in voltage which has been detected is enduring.

ECO mode

In ECO mode some Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter Smart units consume just 0.6 watts – so they can be left in ‘standby’ for extended periods without worrying about the battery running down between jobs. ECO mode is intelligent, too: When the power being provided by the device falls below a certain value – it will automatically enter standby mode. As soon as it detects a load above a preset ‘snooze’ limit, the unit will remain on, to power this new demand.

LED diagnostics

Similarly to its predecessors, the Phoenix Inverter Smart is equipped with ‘traffic-light’ LED’s – the behaviour of which relate to the Inverter’s current ‘status’ – providing you with information concerning which mode the unit is in, whether any alarm conditions exist, or if an automatic trip has taken place. In depth information can be found in the manual. Bluetooth connection to your smart device provides deeper analysis.

The Victron Energy Phoenix Inverter Smart – which weighs around 12kg – can be tidily installed in an out-of-the-way location, thanks to its slim profile, and sturdy mounting plate. But if it’s tucked away – what about reaching it …to turn it on and off? No problem – a remote on/off switch is available.

 

Summary

True Sine Wave power output can be used for sensitive electronics such as computers; and it’s Peak Power capability – of around twice its ‘continuous’ rating – will supply the inrush current typically drawn by workshop tools such as drills, jig-saws, sanders and LED lamps. It can continuously power all the comforts of home – such as Microwave cookers, vacuum cleaners – even pressure washers.

Phoenix Inverter Smart continues to use ultra-reliable ‘full bridge’ configuration and toroidal transformer topology – all housed in a stainless steel case – to provide years of worry-free service.

Phoenix Inverter Smart is a protected against short-circuit, and overheating.

Inverters for every requirement

We have  Inverters, and Inverter/Chargers for every possible requirement – from compact 175W models to 144kW – configurable for 3-Phase; Multi source AC; and even for Assisting Grid-Power. In Ghana call +2332442700092  or visit our facebook page  to find the right Inverter for you.


Lead acid battery charging in cold weather

This blog covers lead acid battery charging at low temperatures. A later blog will deal with lithium batteries.

Charging lead acid batteries in cold (and indeed hot) weather needs special consideration, primarily due to the fact a higher charge voltage is required at low temperatures and a lower voltage at high temperatures.

Charging therefore needs to be ‘temperature compensated’ to improve battery care and this is required when the temperature of the battery is expected to be less than 10°C / 50°F or more than 30°C / 85°F. The centre point for temperature compensation is 25°C / 77°F.

Cold weather also reduces a battery’s capacity. This is another factor that needs to be taken into consideration, along with the load and charge rate compared to the battery capacity (Ah). Both of these factors affect the correct and consequent sizing of a battery for your particular application.

Battery capacity in Ah is usually quoted as a 20 hour capacity rating at 25°C. The discharge rate or load can be written as 0.05C where for example C is the load factor of the 20 hour rated battery capacity at 25°C.

Worked examples: If a 100Ah 20hr rated battery then a 0.05 load would be 100 x 0.05 = 5 Amps or 100/20 which is also a 5 Amp discharge rate over that 20 hour period. A 10A load on a 100Ah 20 hour rated battery would therefore be a 0.1C discharge rate, a 0.2C discharge rate on a 200Ah would be 40A and so on. C ratings also relate to charge rates as well as discharge rates.

When buying a battery you may see its Ah quoted at 20 (the standard rate), 10 and 5 hour rates so you can see how load ‘shrinks’ the Ah. Some even quote at 25 hour rates, which often fools people into thinking they are getting a bigger battery than standard.

To recap – capacity reduces at low temperatures, as it does for higher discharge C rates above the 0.05C 20 hour rate. This reduction in capacity due to higher discharge rates is due to Peukert’s Law.

Graph showing the effect on battery capacity due to temperature and load:

Lead acid battery differences

Lead acid batteries come in a variety of types:
  • Wet lead with the ability to top up each of the six cells with de-mineralised water.
  • The so called ‘sealed’ wet lead leisure or rather maintenance free battery. These cannot be topped up and often have a green go or red no go cell inspection indicator.
  • AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA), where the electrolyte is absorbed in a glass mat.
  • Similar to the AGM, but the electrolyte is held in a Gel.

All of the above are however lead based (as opposed to lithium) technology. Besides lithium batteries Victron Energy sell VRLA AGM and Gel monoblocs (6 x 2V cells in series) due to their superiority over wet lead monobloc types. Victron’s range consists of:

  • Gel (Better cycle life than AGM).
  • AGM (Better than Gel for higher loads and well suited for use with inverters).
  • AGM Telecom. Designed primarily for Telecom applications, but also excellent ‘footprint space savers’ for marine and vehicle applications.
  • AGM Super Cycle (Best if frequent discharge to 60-80% DOD is expected).
  • Lead Carbon Battery (Improved partial state-of-charge performance, more cycles, and higher efficiency).

Additionally Victron also sell specialist lead acid type batteries.

  • OPzV 2V individual battery cells. Long life, high capacity gel.
  • OPzS 2V individual battery cells. Long life high capacity flooded tubular plate batteries for specialist solar applications.

Temperature compensation and charging

Now we know about the kind of batteries, capacities and loads we are dealing with, we need to put some numbers together for temperature compensation and charging.

The recommended temperature compensation for Victron VRLA batteries is – 4 mV / Cell (-24 mV /°C for a 12V battery).

Besides accounting for cold weather charging the charge current should preferably not exceed 0.2C (20A for a 100Ah battery) as the temperature of the battery would tend to increase by more than 10°C if the charge current exceeded 0.2C. Therefore temperature compensation is also required if the charge current exceeds 0.2C.

How to achieve temperature and voltage compensated charging

There are a range of Victron products to achieve this.

With our range of inverter/chargers and since VE.Bus firmware version 415 was released some time back this has ensured that:

– Temp compensation continues down to -20C

– This is for all voltage set-points, except for float, storage and the start of bulk charging

– As soon as the temperature goes below -30C, the compensation mechanism is disabled (normal charge voltages are applied) and a warning is shown.

For systems that don’t use an inverter/charger – we can use Smart Battery Sense to ensure that charging sources provide optimal voltage and temperature compensated charging to your batteries, by wirelessly transmitting accurate battery voltage and temperature values to your Solar Charge Controller or Smart battery charger.

This information is then used to set the ideal charging parameters, resulting in more complete, faster charging – improving battery health and therefore extending battery life.

The Victron Toolkit app allows you to calculate cable sizes and voltage drop. Here’s an example where cable length is the round trip of the positive and negative battery charging cables. This is so you get an idea of what Smart Battery Sense automatically takes into account to ensure the correct charge voltage goes into the battery, by ensuring the charge voltage is compensated for and corrected due to any cable losses.

Victron’s range of SmartSolar MPPT Charge Controllers all work with the Smart Battery Sense. In fact I’ve just fitted one to my motorhome, along with the required Smart Battery Sense, due to the fact the leisure battery temperature location when compared to the location of the controller can have a difference of up to ten degrees. Definitely a case for ensuring accurate temperature compensation.

Other products can be connected too by using what we call ‘VE.Smart Networking support’. See the VE.Smart Networking page.

Conclusion

With the above solutions I know I’ll be happier now that my batteries are getting exactly the right charge due to optimal temperature and voltage compensation.

Why not make sure you are doing the same…

John Rushworth


Lithium-ion batteries in Renewable energy resources – such as wind, water or solar solutions – hold great promise. They could provide energy while overcoming Africa’s infrastructural challenges. But this energy would still need to be stored. Lithium-ion batteries might provide a solution. The Conversation Africa asked Bernard Jan Bladergroen about the challenges and opportunities.

What are lithium-ion batteries and what are its benefits?

Lithium ion, or Li-ion, batteries are a type of rechargeable battery. They are a popular choice because when well looked after, they can be drained and charged literally thousands of times which makes them superior to commonly used lead acid batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries – like other batteries used to store energy – act as a buffer between power generation and consumption. The batteries are charged when power is available from, example, a wind turbine, solar panels or the grid, and then provide power when it’s not.

If Lithium-ion batteries could be manufactured in Africa, on the appropriate scale, they would become cheaper and power users could rely more on renewable energy than they do now. This would open the path for clean, sustainable energy, mitigating the effects of climate change. It could also boost economies.

Africa already has part of the solution: photovoltaic (PV) panels are common and the energy they produce in South Africa is approximately  40% cheaper than that generated from fossil or nuclear fueled power stations. The main drawback of PV power is that it can only really be generated between 5-7 hours daily (depending on what part of the continent one is located. That’s not when most people need to use it, so it has to be stored cheaply.

Lithium-ion batteries have been commercialized elsewhere in the world. Why not in Africa yet?

Li-ion batteries are used in many commercially available products, like power tools, toys, electric bikes, laptops and mobile phones. Large Li-ion battery packs in home and grid-power applications are becoming rapidly more popular in many countries, including Africa.

There are only a few Li-ion battery factories in the US, Poland, South Korea, Japan and China. Most of the companies that run them work closely with electric vehicle manufacturers and consumer good production sites. Some of the top 10 companies manufacturing the batteries include; Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung SDI, LG-Chem and Tesla.

There are a few small companies in South Africa who assemble battery packs using imported cells. And, to the best knowledge of the author, there’s only one facility on the African continent that has the capability to produce Li-ion battery cells at pilot scale: the University of the Western Cape’s Energy Storage Innovation Lab. The lab has already been laying the groundwork for industrial Li-ion batteries assembly. Though I cannot say with certainty that Li-ion cells are not being produced elsewhere in Africa, it would be hard for a commercial plant to go unnoticed as it would have to be very large to be profitable.

freedom won lithium-ion battery installed in Accra

There is huge opportunity. South Africa has almost 80% of the world’s known reserves of manganese – an important component of the most popular battery. Because the companies that produce Li-on batteries have deep pockets, and because the price of manganese is relatively low, they have been able to import it from South Africa.

A growing market will eventually justify the creation of a local battery production plant. But to produce batteries at a competitive price, a large scale facility with an investment of at least $1 billion is required. Only in a facility that produced millions of excellent quality cells per day would the cost per cell be able to compete with cells produced on other continents. It will be challenging to raise the required capital in Africa.

What would be the major challenges in commercializing Li-ion across the continent?

To achieve commercialization across the continent, the cost of a Li-ion battery system needs to be lower than any alternative energy storage system. Currently, Li-ion batteries cost between $500-$1000/kWh, significantly more than Lead Acid batteries, but since they last much longer than Lead Acid, they can offer a better deal.

The desired shift away from our unsustainable fossil-fuel-based economy can be realized when we produce Li-ion batteries that last many years and cost as little as $300/kWh. Economy of scale is crucial to achieve these costs.

The electrification gains could be huge. Renewable energy – such as wind or solar solutions – combined with an energy storage device that could deliver electricity at the cost of electricity from a power station would be a game changer. And because Africa’s power distribution network is still underdeveloped, investors in the device could see returns sooner than in regions with a fully developed transmission network that’s already paid for.


Why do solar street lights fail in Ghana ?Why are our streets so dark? Why are we not seeing working solar street lights in our streets today?

The answer is simple: some stand-alone solar street lights cause more problems than they solve. In some cases they don’t solve any problems at all.In Ghana a lot of streetlights are installed during  the election year ,streets are kept lit constantly and then all of a sudden the lights go out and never come on again.In recent times regular streetlights have been replaced with stand alone solar streetlights and some of them are quite fancy.

Smart Solar Street Light installation in Antigua and Barbuda

The real question is still whether this technology is economically feasible right now or whether we should wait for technology to evolve further before we take the inevitable plunge.The question of feasibility has reared its head due to bad decisions on the implementation of inadequate solar
components combined with “quick fix” solutions versus sustainable, long-term solutions.
The solar street light is a prime example of this. How many solar street lights have you seen that are not in working order? If you haven’t seen any solar street lights at all, it may be that the local municipality has not been convinced of the feasibility of these systems because so many systems have failed to date.
The solar street light is mostly sold as an LED street light with a battery box and a solar panel mounted on top of a 6 – 9 m pole. This is known as a “stand-alone” solar street light. The theory is that the solar panel will charge the battery during the day and, at night, the light will use the power stored in the battery to provide light.This idea should be considered a match made in heaven and a solution to many problems: streets lights use a lot of electricity and eliminating even only half of this consumption would lighten the strain burden on the grid. LED has a much longer life expectancy, so maintenance costs on the lights should
be minimal. So why do we not see this exciting development in our streets today? The answer lies with a combination of quality and longevity and with an understanding of the products.

Victron Energy’s highly efficient, ultra fast MPPT Solar Charge Controllers provide more efficiency in solar street lighting

The lighting units use quality components. The solar panels are 24% efficient (about as good as you can get commercially) and the LED lights are among the best at 160 lumens per watt (lm/W). The more lm/W a lamp produces the more efficient it is.A traditional incandescent light is around 15 lm/W, an energy-saving fluorescent bulb is around 60 lm/W. Easy then to see the attraction of solar power for free and lamps that are over 10 times as efficient as old fashioned bulbs – all which nicely meets companies requirements for improvements in sustainability and efficiency.

EnGoPlanet Inc ,a New York based company chose to use Victron Energy’s highly efficient, ultra fast MPPT Solar Charge Controllers, plus Victron batteries together with lighting options such as:

  • Wireless internet connection for remote control and management.
  • Smart Cameras.
  • Sensors for collecting various environmental data.
  • Mobile phone charging stations.

Their Smart Solar Street Lights are used in the Kuwait project, where 140 units have been installed. Petar Mirovic, CEO of EnGoPlanet tells me that the success of the project has interested other oil companies too, such as Saudi Aramco who are considering an installation of over 1,000 units in the coming months.

Well – that all sounds to me like a recipe for success!


If you are a state broadcaster, Fiji is a difficult region.It takes Victron Energy to power Digital TV in Fiji

900,000 Fijians live on 110 of the nation’s 330 islands …which are sprinkled over a huge area of the Pacific Ocean. Staying in touch with island news, or enjoying the region’s entertainment programmes, has always been challenging – often marred by weak signals and power outages. That’s all changed. Fiji now has ultra-modern Digital TV available to 97% of the population. How has this been achieved?

Fiji is well organised and has one of the best-developed economies of the Pacific region, based mainly on tourism and sugar. Yet the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation struggled to provide a reliable service owing to the mountainous topography, and difficulties of getting power to offshore repeater stations using fragile infrastructure, dogged by extreme weather events.

Derek-Gaeth-Hitech-COO-digital solar powered container installation complete.

New Zealand based Hi Tech Solutions were the company chosen to provide the infrastructure for a major installation which would allow for the Digital switch-over. The key to the success of the project, says Hi Tech’s Derek Gaeth, lay in their decision to install all components inside 20 foot shipping containers. This allowed for the system-build to take place in the controlled environment of Hi Tech’s own workshops; and greatly simplified transportation to the often remote sites of the transmission stations. Equipment for the larger sites required 5 containers to house batteries, inverters, generators and fuel tanks; together with all the switching gear required for Digital, FM, and Data Transmission. The ‘container’ solution also allowed for short on-site build times – where arrival at bare site to sign-off could be achieved in less than 7 days.

Grid electricity is unreliable, so provision has been made in all locations to include solar power  …virtually guaranteeing 24 hour continuous operation under any circumstances. The power demand at the larger sites is around 12kWh – though this can be reduced in abnormal circumstances and still provide essential services.  Apart from reducing the carbon footprint – most power is diesel generated – the solar power provision also reduces cost: The largest site alone is projected to save FJ$1.3 million over three years.Power from the solar panels is stored in Redflow’s Zinc-Bromine flow batteries. These have been chosen for their long life (10 years – guaranteed); their ability to withstand 100% depletion – without damage, and full recovery; and also because they have proven to operate flawlessly in the high tropical temperatures for which the islands are so popular as a tourist destination.

These large-format 10kWh batteries can be paralleled into huge capacity storage – 600kWh in the largest Fiji installation – though even larger banks have been built elsewhere in the world. An added advantage is that their very weight (of 240kg) is a deterrent to theft in remote locations which cannot be ‘policed’.

Victron 10kVA Quattro Inverter Chargers – configured in both single- and three-phase – were chosen to partner this battery storage for several reasons: Victron technology has been built to work seamlessly with many battery technologies – Zinc Bromine being well-proven; also the Quattro is able to work with two power sources – if the weather turns gloomy for an extended spell, batteries can be recharged with power from a diesel Generator – with automatic switching. Peak power demand or unstable grid conditions will cause the Quattro to patch-in with power assistance – with invisible switching times of 20ms …and also Victron equipment can be remotely monitored and controlled using the Victron Remote Management portal.  The Venus GX has been chosen for this part of the operation.

The specification for the largest full off-grid site is impressive: Designed to supply 24kW continuously it features a 192kW solar array controlled by 15 MPPT solar chargers (Victron 250/100); 600kWh battery storage; 12 x 10kVA Quattro’s – configured for three-phase operation; and 24 Fronius Primo inverters.

Across the network power provision totalling 1.2 megawatts has been built to withstand winds of 350kph.

Hitech is a New Zealand headquartered company which provides infrastructure for the commercial generation of solar power – creating sustainable micro-grids for telecoms, remote communities, broadcasting and connecting the IoT. It’s a credit to the team that not only were they the only company able to provide the Government of Fiji with a plan and costing for this major national installation – but they were able to deliver it, on time, as promised.

With their state-of-the-art digital TV transmission infrastructure, Fijians can now catch up on the latest news from almost anywhere.

Many African Nations like Ghana are challenged with electricity and could expand their grid with such innovative solutions from Nocheski Solar

Credit: this story was culled from the victron energy website The image used at the head of this article is by Nick Hobgood.

Justin Tyers