Solar Switch-on at Doornkop

It was a festive day in Doornkop with over 300 community members coming to see the switch on of the lights at their community centre.

Over the last few months ICLEI Africa has been working with the local municipality and Doornkop Community to implement a solar solution as part of the Urban LEDS project, implemented in partnership with UN Habitat and funded by the European Commission. This has included the installation of solar PV, solar water heaters, solar streetlight, ceilings and LED lights, as well as provided key community organisations.

During the week around 85 of the local community members participated in training on energy efficiency, electricity and safety. Schneider Electric provided this as part of their access to energy programme and the participants indicated that they really learnt a lot during the session.

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On Friday morning Ward Councillor Maria Mathibela welcomed the visitors to the solar switch on and the children from Dinoko Early Childhood Development Centre provided entertainment, signing a song about solar energy. Grace Stead provided an overview of the project implementation on behalf of ICLEI Africa, outlining the process, interventions and benefits of the project. Caswel Pokwane from the Doornkop Community Property Association and Morgan Mahlaela from Yoctolux also addressed the crowd.

Mayor Michael Masina from Steven Tshwete Local Municipality provided insight into his own journey towards sustainable living and encouraged the community to take ownership and responsibility of the newly installed equipment. He encouraged the local businesses to support the community through focussing on alternative energy options in their social investment programmes.

Benefits of the project are already evident as the care centres can now use fridges to keep their food cold, there is hot water available, light provide use of the community centre after hours and external lights provide additional security in the area at night. CWP workers can now charge their cellphones that they require for documenting their work, while the children and elderly can listen to the radio and watch TV.

The two local schools Batlagae Primary and Mkhulu Combined School, as well as Kopanang and Ikageng Home Base Care and Drop-inn centres each received a catering size Wonderbag for providing meals to the local children and aged. The Dinoko ECDC and Old Age Centre also received Wonderbags, as well as a Mobiya solar LED lights and kitchen composting buckets. PR Councillor David Mtsweni gave the final word of thanks, acknowledging all the different role players.

To add to the excitement the CSIR brought their electric vehicle, which was charged with the solar panels at the Doornkop centre. This is no ordinary car, but it is the plug-in electric BMW i3 built from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic, with interior made from natural material and recycled plastic. It has 250kg of lithium-ion batteries in the floor of the car, which has a range of around 140 km’s. In addition to this it has a small petrol motor, which can charge the batteries.

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Community Awareness

We have recognised that it is important that the community understand the journey and benefits of solar power.  It started with the Doornkop Renewable Energy Rural Expo in April and now again linked to the solar implementation.

Posters were developed by ICLEI Africa about the project implementation:Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.23.05

Another poster showcases what people can do at their own homes:Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.23.25

Schneider Electric South Africa has created the Schneider Electric Academy that strives to create access to education and skills development for previously disadvantaged individuals. They provided training to the community at Doornkop on access to energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Schneider Electric has launched an “Access to Energy” programme that strives to involve local communities and local stakeholders to reach Southern Africans that do not have access to electricity. The main purpose of the programme is to utilise the high quality solar offer that has been designed and manufactured by Schneider Electric to provide electricity and lightning solutions to previously disadvantaged communities across Southern Africa.

A session was also held on the use of the Wonderbag, an insulation cooker that helps to save energy while cooking your meal.

Wonderbag

Solar Solution Unveiling

Join us for the formal unveiling of the 18kWp solar solution system at the Doornkop Community Centre in Steve Tshwete Local Municipality by Mayor Mike Masina.

Date: Friday, 18 September 2015
Time: 10:00 – 11:30
Place: Doornkop Community Centre
Directions: From Middleburg, drive 15 km north on the N11. Doornkop is on your left and the community centre is 100 metres from the main road on your left and clearly signposted. Map

A media event will also be hosted at the Doornkop Community Centre on Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 11:00, where the Mayor will be addressing the media and opportunity will be provided for interviews with some of the beneficiaries and local community members who have been involved in the installation.

Solar Photovoltaic System

The newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) system at Doornkop is providing the locals with electricity to use at their community centre.  This provides a brief description of the system installed:

PV PANELS: During the daytime, the 68 (260w) north-facing, roof-mounted Poly Crystalline solar PV panels absorb light from the sun, which releases electrons. When these “free electrons” are captured by the panels, an electric current results that can be used as electricity.

SolarPV System at DoornkopSOLAR-INVERTERS: The electricity produced by the solar PV panels is transferred to the four solar-inverters, which convert the direct current (DC) from the panels to alternating current (AC). The electricity is then transferred in AC to the main building’s distribution board for immediate consumption in the building.

BATTERY-INVERTERS: When there is low or no electricity requirements in the building, the additional power is transferred to the two battery-inverters, which charge the battery bank in order to store the surplus power for later use.

BATTERIES: The extra electricity produced by the solar PV panels and not needed immediately is transferred to the 32 deep-cycle solar batteries (520Ah 48volt battery bank), which stores the electricity. When additional electricity is required the batteries feed electricity through the 2 battery-inverters, which converts the DC from the battery bank to AC, which is then fed back to the main distribution board for distribution and consumption throughout the building.

OUTPUT – The system produces 18kWh of peak power from the solar panels, to yield the 42 kWh per day required for powering the building requirements. This electricity can be used for lights, fans, computers, projector, television, refrigeration and radio. When running from the battery inverters (such as at night time), a load of 10kW can be run continuously or a maximum power of 16kW is achievable for one hour.

MAINTENANCE – Regular maintenance needs to be done on the different components to maximize performance, while ensuring safe and reliable operations over the long-term. This helps to identify and avoid potential problems that affect system functions, performance or safety.

The following needs to be done on a yearly basis:

  • Inspect the system components and wiring
  • Check structural attachment and weather sealing
  • Clean and remove debris on or around the PV panels
  • Conduct maintenance and verify system performance
  • Replace or repair damaged or failed system components

The system was installed by Borena Energy – www.borena.co.za

Borena Energy logo

Day 7: Solar installation

With the main PV array up and operating, the last piece of the puzzle was the solar water heaters. We installed two low-pressure water heaters for the main community hall and the caretakers’ cottage respectively.

18.solar water heater installation

In the process we then learn that there’s been incidents of people experiencing electric shocks when touch water pipes and taps. This occurs particularly when bathing. In one instance, the gentleman was using the showerhead around the groin area and learnt the hardest way about the problem. After some testing, it transpired that the in-house wiring was faulty and loose; this was affecting the earthing of power.

19.SWH instaled

The first change I’ve seen since the PV installation is the significant amount of cellphone charging. You think there was a cellphone market when they are all connected. The benefits certainly seem immediate.

Day 6: Solar PV installation

A very short but exciting morning today. At exactly 09:45, the lights went on! As they went on, there was a moment of hysteria and temporary insanity. We composed ourselves and then tested the system to make sure everything is working.

By 11am we were happily having breakfast across the road, satisfied that the installation was a job well done.