Tuesday, May 14, 2013

solar 2.0

The last couple of weeks have been pretty eventful. A trip to mumbai, a fun wedding, and ofcourse, the recovery of the tiredness associated with hectic travel. Anyway, we're back and here's our post on what we've done with the sun!

As part of our efforts to make our new home environmentally sustainable , one of the key aspects was to look at electricity usage and how we can generate our own power sustainably.  Thanks to my work, I did have some insights into the space of renewable energy. So we decided, nn  an urban setup(where the only openspace we have is our little  balcony) , Solar is best suited to generate power. We were lucky that our balcony was in the north-west direction, hence, we got most of mid-day and evening sun, which was pretty much sufficient.

When we were going to buy, we didnt have too many options, so we went with Anu Solar, and here is their system:


Solar Panel - tied up on balcony ledge ( no it wont fall !)

Inverter cum charge controller and battery ( its inside, black stand on wheels)

1. The Solar panel is placed on our balcony ledge so that it gets maximum sunlight. This guy converts sunlight to electricity which then flows via a wire to a Charge Controller(you can see the wire behind the inverter in the second pic).

2. The inverter cum charge controller,which controls the flow of current and is used to charge the battery below .

The arrangement is similar to the normal, household Inverter - battery system you may have in your house where the battery gets  charged when current is on and then when power goes is used to provide electricity . The difference is that here the charging is being done by solar power, thanks to the Sun!

The system which we have has 75 W panel ,800VA inverter , 200 W charge controller and battery backup 4-6 hrs. 

Assuming there is good sunlight throughout the day , we can run 4 CFl'S , 1 tube light for about 4 hrs or so , however this can be furthur increased by usage of LEDs instead of CFLs which will reduced power need by 50% while maintaining the same light . 

We have also connected one fan but we rarely run it because fan will consume almost all the charging and should be used sparingly if you have to use it .

My wife has also bravely connected her computers and the wifi to Solar power. When none of the other power consumers are running her systems seem to run fine. But obviously, they'd need more power. 
The Anu solar guys have, thankfully, provided with a basic option to give us some sort of back up to solar. 

This system (see the inverter pic) has a plug which allows it to be charged by main power whenever sufficient charge(either due to cloudy days or used up) is not available . This one we have to manually switch.The newer systems in market may have an auto charging from mains in absence of solar. 

Another important aspect is the wiring. You can either choose to be attached to the grid, like the typical house inverter systems, or choose to be off-grid. This would mean, you would effectively have two electric networks at home. One that runs on normal utility electricity, and another that runs solely on solar.  

So some very clear advantages :
1.  Our electricity bill has clearly reduced, by atleast Rs. 80
2. We can be self-sufficient to some extent. Every room in our house has at least one point that is powered by solar (and either has CFL or LED bulbs) 
3. It is scalable, (not infinitely, though). We can add another 3 panels, to increase power generation, at an incremental cost. For instance we can generate upto 200 W ( max capacity of charge controller) by adding panels upto 125 W. 

And disadvantages:
1. Initial cost is definitly higher, so it is best if you install it when you are in the process of of building/setting up/decorating your new house. It is less painful :)
2. Maintenance. Especially in apartments, where you have to share your dwelling with pigeons. The smooth glassy/glossy surface of our beloved panel seems to looks like an ideal pooping place for them. So it needs to be cleaned regularly, else, the efficiency of the panel will come down.

In the past year, thanks to everyone suddenly waking up to "going green",  many players  have cropped up, some of them with aggressive marketing.  Some of players who may be worth looking are Anu Solar( we have purchased from them) and old timers, Selco

More info on Govt schemes , technology to help households switch to renewable energy, etc, in future posts.

Do let us know your feedback/queries, etc. We'd be happy to hear from you!
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