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An assessment of unforeseen losses resulting from inappropriate use of solar home systems in South Africa
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3449-2253
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4589-7045
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2189-0105
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8604-9299
2014 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 136, 336-346 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

One of the challenges to the sustainability of the Solar Home System (SHS) electrification program in South Africa is equipment theft. In response to this, communities susceptible to solar panel theft resort to mounting their panels flat on the ground so they can be looked after during the day and taken indoors at night for safe keeping. Other households use their security lights to illuminate their environment and provide security for pole and roof mounted solar panels at night. These actions have consequential effects on the performance of the SHS. Several studies have detected resentment from households regarding the low power quality from these systems. Most scientific contributions on the issue of low power from SHS have focused on the challenges based on the technical designs of the systems. The power losses due to the usage pattern of the system has not received much attention. This study therefore reports on the technical losses as a result of the deviation from the designed and installed specification of the system by the users in order to protect their systems. It also investigates the linkage between the technical and economic losses which affects the sustainability of SHS program. A case study was performed in Thlatlaganya village within Limpopo province in South Africa. Technical analysis using PVSYST solar software revealed that the energy output and performance of the battery is compromised as a result of these practices. Economic analysis indicates that the battery life and the economics of owning and operating SHS are affected negatively. The study recommends solutions to mitigate these losses, and proposes a cost effective way of optimizing the operation of SHS using a Bench-Rack system for mounting solar panels.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 136, 336-346 p.
Keyword [en]
Battery life expectancy, Life cycle cost, Rural electrification sustainability, SHS performance optimization, Solar panel theft, User education, Battery life, Lifecycle costs, Performance optimizations, Rural electrification, Solar panels
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-26152DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2014.09.044ISI: 000345725800033Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84907680647OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-26152DiVA: diva2:757432
Available from: 2014-10-22 Created: 2014-10-22 Last updated: 2016-01-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainability and development impacts of off-grid electrification in developing countries: An assessment of South Africa's rural electrification program
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Hållbarhet och utvecklingseffekter av off-grid elektrifiering i utvecklingsländer : En bedömning av Sydafrikas elektrifiering av landsbygden programmet
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have shown that provision of sustainable electricity supply to rural households is essential to bring development to off-grid populations. For this reason, most developing countries put large efforts into rural electrification programs to stimulate development and reduce poverty. However, to be sustainable these programs need to recover costs, which poses a challenge to remote low income populations.  This often forces governments and other institutions involved in rural electrification to subsidize the electricity production. It also affects the choice of technology and places a barrier on the level of energy provided in line with the ability to pay for services. As a result of this, most programs have failed to achieve the desired objectives, as the technologies used often do not support income generating activities that could increase the payment capabilities of the beneficiaries and contribute to development.

This thesis is focused on the rural electrification program of South Africa, the country in sub-Saharan Africa that has the highest access to electricity. It investigates the success elements that influence the sustainability of rural electrification programs and their contributions to socio-economic development. This was achieved by evaluating the South African program that provides solar home systems to off-grid communities, and a hybrid solar-wind mini-grid project in South Africa. The study also draw lessons from other rural electrification programs in neighbouring countries, i.e. an evaluation of a hybrid solar-diesel mini-grid system in Namibia, and a review of two systems, a hybrid solar-biomass mini-grid project in Botswana and a hydro mini-grid program in Lesotho. The study revealed that hydro based hybrid mini-grid systems provide the most cost effective way of bringing energy services to rural settlements. Regardless of technology, successful programs depend on adequate support from the government, implementation of a progressive tariff system that allows the high consuming high income earners and businesses, to cross subsidize the low consuming , low income users. It shows that it is more likely for rural electrification programs to survive if the design considers the existing businesses, population growth and the corresponding load increase. The thesis further shows that provision of sufficient energy to induce income generating activities is essential to decrease the need for subsidies and to ensure the sustainability of programs. In addition, availability of spare parts and a capable management team is essential for the successful operations and maintenance of these systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University, 2016. 65 p.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 198
Keyword
Off-grid electrification, sustainability, solar home system, hybrid mini-grid, renewable energy, technical challenges
National Category
Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-30762 (URN)978-91-7485-252-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-03-04, Gamma, Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-02-01Bibliographically approved

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