Have you heard about solar mini-grid systems and now you are wondering what are the basic components of a solar mini-grid system?

If this is you, then you are about to read in detail the basic technical components of a mini-grid system.

What are the Basic Technical Components of a Solar Mini-Grid?

A combination of three major systems makes up the basic technical components of a solar mini-grid. 

They are;

  1. Production System
  2. Distribution System 
  3. End-User System

These basic components of a solar mini-grid are not so different from that found in the conventional electricity production system.

For every solar mini-grid system you see out there, it is a combination of these three sub-systems. 

The solar mini-grid system begins with the production system component that has to do with the generation of electricity.

After generating electricity, there is a second component which is the distribution system that distributes electricity to the end-users.

At the end of the chain, we have the end-users. The end-user system provides connections that allow customers to use electricity in their homes and offices.

Let’s break it down in details.

1. Production System

It is important to pay attention to the production system when setting up the solar mini-grid system.

This is because the production system determines the mini grid’s overall capacity to provide electricity to end-users.

Whatever quantity of electricity the production system is able to produce, that is what the distribution system will transmit to the end-users.

The components of a solar mini-grid production system consist of the following

  • A set of energy generation technologies; for generating electricity through various means
  • Power inverters; for converting DC to AC and vice versa
  • A management system; for controlling the charging of batteries and distribution of electricity.
  • Batteries; for storage. 

components of solar mini-grid

Energy Generation Technologies

As part of the solar mini-grid energy generation technologies, we have the following:

  • Diesel generators
  • Hydropower systems
  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules
  • Wind turbines
  • Biomass-powered generators
  • Geothermal-powered generators

A mini-grid may use a single energy source or a mix of sources (hybrid) that are either renewable or nonrenewable.

For instance, an off-grid mini-grid system may use only solar photovoltaic (PV) modules to generate electricity.

Power Inverters

Some energy generation technologies produce direct current (DC) while others produce alternating current (AC).

For instance, a solar photovoltaic (PV) module generates DC, whereas nearly all mainstream appliances require AC.

The conversion is mostly dependent on the end user’s requirement.

Especially when end-users need a different type of electrical current than what the energy production technology generates.

Inverters in the electricity production system helps to convert electric current from DC to AC making it usable for most end-users.

Therefore, a solar-powered mini-grid serving several households would need an inverter as part of its production system.

Unlike the mainstream appliances which end-users use, charging of power storage batteries requires a DC power.

So, an inverter would convert electrical current from AC to DC if the current were coming from a grid-tied (utility) system or from a diesel generator.

In an AC-coupled configuration with storage (a battery), the energy generation and storage systems each have their own inverter.

These separate inverters connect to one another on the AC side of the system.

Operators can use the battery inverter to control charging and discharging.

In a DC-coupled PV configuration, the energy generation and energy storage systems share an inverter.

DC coupling tends to provide better performance.

This is because battery charging is more efficient when there are fewer power conversion steps.

storage battery house for solar mini grid system

Management System

Management systems form part of the basic components in a solar mini-grid – under the production system.

The management system measure, monitor and control electrical loads.

Let’s use the charge controller as an example.

To prevent the battery from charging and overcharging, connect a charge controller between the solar panel and the battery or inverter/charger.

Also, metering and monitoring equipment allow mini-grid managers to gather data about energy use across end-users, which informs operational decisions.

In order to optimize performance, management systems often couple computerized energy management tools with smart metering.

Some management systems allow operators to control the system remotely, including shedding loads as per requirement.

Storage

Some mini-grid production systems require energy storage units such as batteries to be able to supply electricity all the time.

This is true especially for solar and wind resources that only produce power when the renewable resources are available.

Because these renewable resources are not always available round the clock, they cannot produce electricity according to user demand.

For such a mini-grid system to be able to meet the power requirement of the end-users on-demand, it must store energy and supply it when resources are not available.

One awesome benefit of energy storage is that it adds stability to the system by storing energy for peak consumption.

Large mini-grid systems that run diesel generators continuously do not require batteries.

However, nearly all other mini-grid systems require some type of energy storage.

To optimize system performance, longevity and cost, project developers need to identify the most appropriate energy storage technology for their mini-grid.

Lead-acid batteries are the most common, but fuel cells and advanced battery technologies—like lithium-ion, nickel-metal hydride and sodium-ion batteries—are generally more efficient and last longer.

Interestingly, the costs for these new battery technologies continue to decrease as they become advance in technology.

Despite the need to store electricity for when there is a need for it, it is worthy to note that large battery banks pose serious safety hazards.

High concentrations of hydrogen gas can cause explosions, and leaks can cause electrolyte spills.

To curtail these hazards, installers should locate batteries in locations with good ventilation such as utility rooms or outbuildings.

Also, purchasing and operating a battery can sometimes cost more than operating a diesel generator continuously.

This may be the case when the operators are unlikely to maintain and use the battery correctly.

2. Distribution System

The distribution system is the second basic component of a solar mini-grid system.

After generating electricity in the production system, the distribution system transmits the electric power from the energy production system to end-users.

Distribution and/or transmission lines, transformers and the infrastructure to support the lines, such as poles are key components of a distribution system.

Lines can be overhead or underground. Overhead transmission is most common as it is comparatively cheaper and easy to connect to the end-user.

The distribution system uses a variety of voltages when transmitting electricity from the production system to the end-users.

It can be either be AC or DC, and either a single- or three-phase power supply.

AC voltage levels in a mini-grid network covering a large area can be changed by transformers.

To transmit electricity more efficiently over a distance, AC output voltage can be increased by step-up transformers.

On the other hand, step-down transformers decrease the voltage from high- or medium-voltage transmission lines to 120 V or 220 V for residential use.

Distribution network costs and system losses in AC mini-grids can be minimized by transformers.

Distributing electricity at medium voltage allows systems to use smaller conductors, minimizing cable costs.

A higher voltage causes greater safety risks for operators and users. Therefore, special training is required for operators. 

There are various efficiencies in various components. Therefore, the determining of voltage, current and transformers impact energy losses.

The cost setting up the distribution system usually dictates which option project developers choose.

DC is generally less expensive than AC because AC requires power conditioning equipment.

The availability of appliances for different currents is also consideration developers must take note of.

End-user system component of mini-grid systems

End-user System

The end-user systems provide an interface for electricity consumers to access, use and monitor electricity from the mini-grid.

It takes into account consumers’ needs and energy uses to determine the type of system that will be fit for the connection.

For example, a business that uses large machinery for production purposes will need a different system than households that use electricity for lighting and small appliances.

The end-user system consists of three basic components;

  • Connections to and from the mini-grid
  • Systems to prevent electrical shocks and harm to both equipment and users
  • Power consumption metering.

Benefits of an end-user system component in solar mini-grid systems

The end-user system has some important uses and benefits to both the consumers and the operators.

  • End-user systems provide information to consumers, that allow them to monitor their energy consumption, estimate the cost of their consumption and understand the current status of the system.
  • They also provide useful data back to the system operator, reporting on consumption rate and timing, like when and how much energy is used.
  • These data provide valuable feedback to system operators, which enables them to estimate and predict demand and consumption patterns.
  • The data also allows regulators to establish tariffs that balance the needs of the operator and the consumer. While ensuring differing use cases are priced fairly and competitively.
  • Finally, the end-user system provides important electrical bond and grounding mechanisms. This helps to ensure the safety of its users and protect valuable and expensive equipment.

Power consumption metering

Mini-grid enterprises rely on frequent, small payments from their customers for the use of electricity.

This makes metering, billing and collection time-consuming and expensive too.

Innovative metering and payment systems automate these otherwise complex tasks.

Individual meters (one per end-user) provide the greatest degree of control over energy use.

Meters can be pre- or post-paid; pre-paid meters typically are called pay-as-you-go (PAYG) metering.

Newer generation meters are typically considered “smart meters.”

Although older, traditional meters are still in use, both have advantages and disadvantages.

Green Village Electricity Mini-Grid Installation

Having read to this point, we believe you now understand the various components of a solar mini-grid system.

The basic components of a solar mini-grid system consist of the production system, distribution system and end-user system.

Each of these components has sub-systems via which electricity is produced, distributed and used by end-users.

GVE Projects Ltd has a track record of setting up efficient mini-grids in Nigeria.

It is part of our services to bridge the electricity gap in Nigeria by designing and installing solar mini-grids, home solar installations etc.

You can read about some of the solar mini-grids we designed and installed in Nigeria.

If you are up for a partnership or you wish to provide electricity to an area as part of your company’s CSR activity, you can send an email to info@gve-group.com.

We are always ready to deploy our solar mini-grid system to meet the electricity need of people.

Call +234 909 2227 483 to communicate with one of our representatives immediately for more inquiry.

GVE Projects Limited, an innovative, indigenous renewable energy solution provider in Sub-Saharan Africa, has deployed an 18KVA solution to power an isolation and treatment facility upgraded and furnished by the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) at the Enugu State Medical Diagnostics Centre, Nigeria.

GVE also successfully deployed a 12KVA solar system with 30kWh battery storage solution at the Rivers State COVID-19 Isolation Facility located at the Eleme General Hospital, Ogale, Nchia in April.

Funding for the provision of emergency solar power to these health centres was provided by All On’s N180m COVID-19 Solar Relief Fund launched on March 31, 2020. All On, an impact investing firm funded by Shell, released this fund as part of its efforts towards the national response to contain the pandemic.

GVE CEO, Mr. Ifeanyi Orajaka, said, “As a socially responsible organization, we are happy to provide assistance during this national crisis despite the challenges caused by the lockdown. I salute the selflessness of my colleagues who implemented these projects in strict compliance with necessary health and safety guidelines.”

This effort was accomplished in close collaboration with All On, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Clean Technology Hub (CTH), and the Rivers and Enugu State governments.

All On CEO, Dr. Wiebe Boer, said, “In line with our mission, these projects further demonstrate our commitment to supporting relief efforts in the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole during these critical times, and we commend GVE for its professional and timely execution”.

Similar sentiments have been shared by other partners.

SDN Programmes Advisor, Chris Newsom, said, “SDN is pleased to play a facilitation role on the Eleme project. Credit goes to GVE and the Ministry of Health, Rivers State, for connecting efficiently to make this happen swiftly.”

The projects could potentially deliver long term, direct impact on the communities.

Founder/CEO of CTH Ms. Ifeoma Malo, said, “The installation at the Enugu isolation centre will greatly mitigate the spread of the virus in the state and environs, by providing uninterrupted electricity to help patient management and support healthcare facilities at the centre.”

These solar installations will ensure the provision of uninterrupted power supply at the Rivers and Enugu State COVID-19 isolation facilities.

In addition to these on-going projects, GVE is further collaborating with All On to provide complimentary electricity to 21 healthcare facilities in its mini-grid sites located in rural communities across eight states in Nigeria. This on-going intervention will ensure that over 37,000 residents in rural communities enjoy access to affordable healthcare services over the next six months.

To achieve this feat, GVE is collaborating with other partners including IEEE Smart Village, Jinko Solar, Schneider Electric, Ardova Plc (formerly Forte’ Oil), Tranos to deploy emergency solar solutions at other COVID-19 isolation and testing centres across the country.

Administrator, CACOVID Zouera Youssoufou said: We are impressed by the efficiency with which GVE Projects Limited delivered the solar installation at the CACOVID-funded isolation centre in Enugu.

These partnerships are a demonstration that takes all sectors working together to curb the spread of this menace.”

For more on GVE Projects Limited by visit https://gve-group.com/You can also find GVE on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Selecting the best solar installer for your project can be the most challenging part of your solar buying process.

It is easy to classify solar equipment according to product specification.

Also, you can weigh financing options by looking at their costs and benefits.

However, standard metrics for choosing the best solar installation company are difficult to find.

The good news is that there are plenty of solar installers out there with well-trained and experienced staff. 

Even though GVE Projects Ltd is one of the best solar installation companies for your solar project, we like to give you a neutral ground for making a decision.

You can get multiple quotes from different solar installers at no cost, then, use the following tips to understand how to choose one.

GVE Projects limited provides 24-7 electricity to NCDC Isolation centre

What to look for when choosing the best solar installer for your projects

When doing a solar review to select the right company for your project, you need to ask the right questions.

Asking the right questions will make it easy and faster for you to identify the perfect solar installer.

Here are some of the questions to ask when selecting a solar installer for your solar installation projects.

1. What’s the capacity of the solar company?

This answer to this question depends on the scale of the project and the capacity of the solar company.

Most small scale solar installers have expertise in setting up solar power systems for small scale purposes.

Their capacity will be able to build solar energy systems for homes, small shops and SMEs.

However, they may not be fit to carry out larger projects like building a solar mini-grid system. 

On the other hand, a full-stack solar installation company will be able to handle both small and large scale projects.

This makes it easy for you to use them for all of your projects and maintain consistency products and service delivery.

2. Does the solar installer have the necessary licenses and insurance?

Solar installation projects are very risky because it involves the use of very fragile solar panels.

Also, home solar installers most times install solar panels on rooftops and are susceptible to accidents. 

To be sure that you do not bear an unnecessary cost of damages, you need to make sure that the solar company has insurance cover for all products.

The insurance cover should be valid during shipment as well as during installation.

Ensure that the solar installer has government-approved licenses or face the consequences of leaving your project to amateurs.

3. Does the installer provide warranties and after-sale services?

Warranties are really important for solar projects to ensure that the system does not breakdown within a short period of time.

Warranties generally range from 1 to 10 years.

You need to be sure that your installer is available to provide you with all the help you need after the project is completed.

That way, you can confirm that the system is in perfect working order before you finally take full responsibility and liability.

4. Has the solar company worked on other solar projects?

When conducting solar reviews, you may want to ask this question to know whether they plan to learn on with your project.

Make sure your installer has a good track record and experience in setting up solar panels.

To make it easy for you, you can request for the solar provider to show you solar power systems done for previous clients.

With pictures and other proof of project existence, you can conclude whether the installer is the right pick for the job or not.

5. What are people saying about the solar installation company?

A company becomes popular when a lot of people keep using their products or services.

Although, some good solar companies may not be so popular, yet they are good.

For those ones that are really popular, you need to read online reviews about them.

Carefully observe the negative reviews from customers. 

If you notice any pattern or similar complaints, it is most likely that you will suffer the same problem.

While some clients may overexaggerate their experience with the solar installer, you should be thorough with your conclusions. 

Start your solar journey today with GVE Projects Ltd

Green Village Electricity (GVE) Projects Limited is the foremost and most innovative renewable energy solutions provider in West Africa, registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria (RC1071222).

Our clients trust us as the most reliable renewable energy company delivering world-class service with a touch of unique local contexts because of the value we bring to the table.

Send us a message now to get a custom solar quote tailored to fit your needs.

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy in Nigeria refers to the energy that comes from renewable resources.

It is also referred to as clean energy and it comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. 

For example, sunlight or wind keep shining and blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather.

Types of Renewable energy includes solar, wind, hydro, oceanic, geothermal, biomass, and other sources of energy that indefinitely renew itself in nature.

Forms of useable energy include electricity, hydrogen, fuels, thermal energy and mechanical force.

Beginning of Renewable Energy

While renewable energy is often thought of as a new technology, man has been harnessing nature’s power for a very long time.

We have been using renewable energy for heating, transportation, lighting, and more. 

For instance, man has been using wind to propel boats to sail the seas and windmills to grind grain. 

Also, man harness the sun to provide warmth during the day and help kindle fires to last into the evening. 

But over the past 500 years or so, humans have been increasingly turning away to cheaper, dirtier energy.

Such energy sources like coal and fracked gas have greatly affected our climate and weather conditions.

Now that technology is helping the world to increasingly innovative and uses less-expensive ways to capture and retain wind and solar energy, renewables are becoming a more important power source.

In the U.S.A, for instance, renewable energy sources account for more than one-eighth of US total energy generation. 

The expansion in renewables is also happening at scales large and small, from rooftop solar panels on homes that can sell power back to the grid to giant offshore wind farms. 

Even some entire rural communities rely on renewable energy for heating and lighting.

What are the Sources of Renewable Energy in Nigeria?

Nigeria has an abundance of various renewable energy resources.

However, Nigeria generates a small amount of energy from only four main renewable energy sources. They are 

  • Hydropower
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Biomass

Status of Renewable energy in Nigeria

Electricity distribution is holding Nigeria back. 

Electricity shortages significantly impede Nigeria’s economic growth. 

Some parts of the country have little or no access to the national grid.

Meanwhile, in other areas electricity is only available for short and varying periods of the day.

Renewable energy penetration in Nigeria is still in its beginning stage.

The only source of renewable energy in the country is hydro-power and biomass.

Even though there is the presence of wind and solar energy, they have only been deployed in a minimal amount.

To date, fossil fuels entirely dominate the national energy supply in Nigeria. 

Renewable energy resources are grossly underutilised in the country despite their availability in reasonable quantities.

Government Contribution to the Development of Renewable Energy

Even though many homes have been using renewable energy sources prior to this time, the Nigerian government, in 2003, introduced renewable energy as part of its national energy policy.

Successful implementation should result in the installation of enough wind, solar PV, solar thermal, and hydroelectricity sources by 2025 to provide the equivalent of the entire grid capacity in use in Nigeria today.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is already committing to stimulate investment in renewable energy generation in Nigeria. 

With a vast and mostly untapped potential in renewable energy resources, the Commission has set a target of generating a minimum of 2,000MW of electricity from renewables by the year 2020.

The main feature of this project include;

  • Guaranteed price & access to the grid
  • Feed-In – Tariff for Solar, Wind, Biomass & Small Hydro
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) based on the plant life cycle of 20 years
  • Electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to procure a minimum of 1000MW (50 per cent of the total projected renewable sourced electricity)
  • Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET) to procure a minimum of 1000MW (50 per cent of the total projected renewable sourced electricity)

If this project becomes real, we can be very sure of it having a positive impact on the state of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria.

The use of renewable natural resources, in combination with efficient supply and use of fossil fuels with cleaner technologies, can help reduce the environmental effects of energy use.

It will also help Nigeria in replacing the existing, inefficient fossil fuel technologies that pollute the environment.

Private Sector Participation in Renewable Energy Development

When it comes to private sector participation in the development of renewable energy in Nigeria, GVE Projects Limited is at the forefront of this.

Green Village Electricity (GVE) Projects Limited is the foremost and most innovative renewable energy solutions provider in West Africa.

The company is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria (RC1071222).

GVE Projects Limited has a lot of achievements in its coffers.

This is because of incredible clients and sponsors like you, private and public partners.

Also, we have been able to position the company as the leader in Nigeria’s renewable energy industry.

We create value for our numerous clients through world-class service delivery with a touch of unique local contexts.

Thanks to the expertise and dedication of our board of directors, management, employees and our various business associates.

We also have a long history perfectly completing renewable energy projects especially solar mini-grid installations around Nigeria.

Most recently, we completed a 1MW interconnected solar mini-grid in partnership with the AEDC to provide constant electricity to the modern Wuse Market in Abuja.

Obviously, this interconnected electricity distribution agreement is the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Moving Foward

As pioneers launching new frontiers in the renewable energy industry in Nigeria, we hope to reach that point where Nigeria has most of its energy coming from renewable energy sources.

In addition, we are working really hard to see that Nigeria continues to get a 24/7 supply of electricity for daily economic activities.

It’s our vision to be the first-choice global renewable energy solutions provider while also providing reliable and sustainable energy solutions to our clients.

With our eyes set on this mission alongside a strategic collaboration with companies and sponsors, we hope to transform the energy and electricity situation in Nigeria.

Are you starting a new renewable energy project? Contact Us Today!

Phone: +234 909 2227 483, +234 909 2229 483

Email: info@gve-group.com

Off-grid solar systems are completely independent of the power grid. You can also refer to them as independent solar power or stand-alone solar power.

What this means is that with off-grid solar systems you will not need backup power from power companies.

You can only use what your solar energy system produces and what you have stored in your battery bank.

Because off-grid solar energy systems must do not have backup power, they typically have much bigger battery banks than grid-tied solar systems with a battery backup.

Benefits of the off-grid solar system

The use of this type of solar energy system comes with its own advantages too.

  1. Avoid Power Outages: No more fears of power outages. Off-grid solar energy systems are reliable for outage situations. These systems store energy even when for some reason the power company is unable to supply electricity.
  2. Reduced electricity costs: Off-grid solar systems rely on sunlight to provide the power you need. As a result, this adds nothing in your monthly electric bills.
  3. Easier Installation: By using simple tools, a homeowner can install a solar off-grid system on their own. This can help reduce the overall system cost substantially.
  4. Easy Alternative for Rural Areas: Rural and remote areas usually have fewer infrastructures. Therefore, connecting them to the main electrical grid can be a challenge and incredibly costly. But by using off-grid solar energy systems, one can offset this significant role. With sponsorship, one can build a solar mini-grid system in a rural area.
  5. Keeping the Environment Clean and Green: Renewable energy sources such as off-grid solar powered systems minimizes carbon footprint that keeps the air and environment clean. Using off-grid technology helps to provide electricity and also reduce your consumption of fossil fuel. Also, this will help minimize the negative impact on the environment

House powered with solar off-grid system

How to set up an off-grid solar system

Now that you know some benefits of the off-grid solar system, you are welcome to think about building one immediately.

However, there is an issue.

No one wakes up one morning to start installing an off-grid solar system without having prior knowledge of what to do.

That is, in fact, the exact reason for this article.

If you want to design a system like this one, you are welcome to use these steps in this article.

Here are the 6 steps to get you started.

1. Figure out how much power you need

This is the most important step in this process, and many people try to skip over it. Don’t be like many people who go by assumptions.

You must sit down and calculate your power load before choosing the components you need for installation.

This calculation will help you determine how much time your solar off-grid system will run.

You’ve got to remember absolutely everything that will be powered by your system.

Any little change in your calculation can make a big difference.

With a basic knowledge of mathematics, you can do the calculation very easily.

  1. Decide what appliances (bulbs, AC, fan, TV etc ) you want to run and how much time (hours).
  2. See the specification chart in your appliances for power rating.
  3. Calculate the Watt Hour which is equal to the product of the power rating of your appliances and run time (hours). Load Calculation Example: Let’s say you want to run a 50W Fan for 4 hours from a solar panel, then the watt-hour is equal to  (CFL) for 5 hours from a solar panel, then the watt-hour is equal to; Watt Hour = 50W x 6 hr = 200
  4. Calculate the total Watt Hour: Just as with the fan you’ll now calculate the watt-hour for other appliances in your home and add them together. Example: compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) = 11W x 7 hr = 77; Fan = 50 W x 4hr = 200; TV = 80W x 3hr = 240
    Total Watt Hours = 77+200+240 = 517

If you have more than one appliance of the same kind, you can multiply the watt-hour for that appliance by the number available.

Now that the load calculation is over, the next thing is to choose the right components to match your load requirement.

Note: If this process is too much maths for you to do, you can just key in the appropriate numbers in this load calculator. There are many other load calculators available on the internet that will serve the same purpose.

2. Calculate the number of batteries you need

Now that you know how much power you need, you need to figure out how many batteries you need to store it.

  • Do you need only enough storage for a day or two?
  • Is there a need to have enough batteries to store 3 or 4 days, or more, worth of power?
  • Do you have another power source, like a generator, that will kick in if the sun doesn’t shine?
  • Will you be storing the batteries in a warm room or will they be in a cold location?

Batteries are rated for storage at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The colder the room, the bigger the battery bank you need – by over 50% more for below freezing. Each of these answers affects the size, and cost, of your battery bank.

GVE Projects Ltd mini-grid rural electrification batteries in Bisanti

GVE Projects Ltd mini-grid rural electrification batteries used in Bisanti

What voltage battery bank do you need for the off-grid solar system – 12V, 24V, or 48V?

Before going to choose the components for installation, you must decide your system voltage, 12V, 24V or 48V.

The higher the voltage, the lesser the current and the lesser the copper loss will be in the conductor.

This will also reduce your conductor size. Most of the small home solar systems will have 12 V or 24 V.

On the other hand, the larger the system, the higher voltage battery banks are used to keep the number of parallel strings to a minimum and reduce the amount of current between the battery bank and the inverter.

If you are just owning a small system, and want to be able to charge your cell phone and power 12V DC appliances in your RV, then a basic 12V battery bank makes sense.

But if you need to power much over 2000 watts at a time, you’ll want to consider 24 volt and 48 volt systems.

Besides reducing how many parallel strings of batteries you’ll have, it’ll allow you to use thinner and less expensive copper cabling between the batteries and the inverter.

3. Calculate the number of solar panels needed for your location and time of year

Using the off-grid calculator from the previous step, you can also figure out how many solar panels you’ll need for your solar system.

After knowing how much energy you need to make per day from the load calculator, you’ll need to tell it how much sunshine you’ll have to harvest from.

This available energy from the sun for a location is referred to as “sun hours.”

The number of “sun hours” is how many hours the available sun shining on your panels at an angle throughout the day equals sunlight, as if it were shining directly on your solar panels when they get the most power.

As you know, the sun isn’t as bright at 8 AM as it is at noon.

So, an hour of morning sun may be counted as half an hour, whereas the hour from noon to 1 PM would be a full hour.

Unless you live near the equator, you do not have the same number of hours of sunlight in the winter as you do in the summer.

You want to take the worst-case scenario when determining the available energy from the sun for your area.

The best option is to choose the season with the least amount of sunshine or sun hours.

That way, you do not end up short on solar energy for part of the year.

solar of-grid system rooftop solar panels

4. Select a solar charge controller

Now that we have the batteries and the solar panels we need, the next requirement is a way to manage the transmission of power from the solar panels into the batteries.

A solar charge controller is a device which is placed between a solar panel and a battery.

It regulates the voltage and current coming from your solar panels.

It is used to maintain the proper charging voltage on the batteries.

As the input voltage from the solar panel rises, the charge controller regulates the charge to the batteries preventing any overcharging.

An extremely rough calculation to figure out what size solar charge controller you need is to take the watts from the solar, and divide it by the battery bank voltage.

Then you add another 25% for a safety factor.

Types of Charge Controllers:

Now there’s a bit more to consider with selecting the charge controller. These are the 3 main types of charge controllers;

  1. ON OFF Charge Controller
  2. PWM Charge Controller
  3. MPPT Charge Controller

As much as you can, try to avoid the ON/OFF charge controller as it is the least efficient type.

Among the 3 charge controllers, MPPT has the highest efficiency but it is also relatively expensive than the others.

So, if you are to select a charge controller, you can use either pick the PWM or MPPT.

Here are some tips to help you determine the exact charge controller to use.

  1. If the voltage of the solar panel array matches the voltage of the battery bank, you can use a PWM charge controller. For instance, if you have a 12V panel and a 12V battery bank, then use PWM.
  2. If your solar panel voltage is different from the battery bank voltage, and can’t be wired in series to make it match, you need to use an MPPT charge controller. In essence, if you have a 20V solar panel and you have a 12V battery bank, you need to use an MPPT charge controller.

solar off-grid system charge controller

5. Select an inverter

Now that we have efficiently charged batteries, we need to make the power usable. If you are only running DC loads straight off your battery bank, you can skip this step.

But, if you are powering any AC loads, you need to convert the direct current from the batteries into alternating current for your appliances.

Solar power systems work by first receiving sun rays on the solar panels (PV) which converts the rays into direct current (DC) electricity.

Then, you use a device known as an inverter to convert the DC into alternating current (AC).

AC electricity circulates through every outlet of your home, powering all the appliances.

Inverter Types

There are three main types of inverters for solar installations.

  1. Square Wave
  2. Modified Sine Wave
  3. Pure Sine Wave

Square wave inverters are the cheapest but they are not suitable for all appliances.

The Modified Sine Wave inverter output is also not suitable for certain appliances, especially those with capacitive and electromagnetic devices such as a fridge, microwave oven and most kinds of motors.

Typically modified sine wave inverters work at lower efficiency than pure sine wave inverters.

So, if you are to chose an inverter for your off-grid solar system, I will urge you to choose a pure sine wave inverter.

The inverter may be grid-tied or stand-alone. In our case, it is obviously stand-alone and completely off-the-grid since we are working on an off-grid solar system.

It is also very important to know what type of AC power you need. In North America, the standard is a 120/240V split-phase, 60Hz.

In Europe and much of Africa and some countries in South America, the AC power requirement is 230V single 50Hz.

Some inverters are configurable between voltages and/or frequencies, while many have fixed values.

So, you need to carefully check the specs of the inverter you are purchasing to make sure it matches your needs.

Rating of Inverter:

The rating of the inverter you are going for is also an important metric to consider.

The power rating should be equal or more than the total load in watt at any instant.

Luckily, way back in step one, you created a loads list that figured out both the constant watts and surge requirements of your loads.

From our example, the maximum load at any instant = CFL (11W) + Fan (80W) + Tv (50W) = 141W

By taking some margin we can choose a 200W inverter.

As our system is 12V we have to select a 12V DC to 230V/50Hz or 110V/60Hz AC pure sine wave inverter.

Please note that an inverter is designed for a specific voltage battery bank, like 12, 24 or 48 volts.

So, you need to know what voltage battery bank you are going to have before you settle on the inverter.

Keep this in mind if you have plans of expanding your solar power system in the future.

If you plan on having a higher voltage battery bank later, be aware that the lower voltage inverter won’t work in the new bigger system.

Therefore, you can either plan ahead and go with a much higher voltage from the start or plan on changing out your inverter in the future.

#6 Balance of system

Much of the work you require to build an efficient off-grid solar power system has been explained from step 1 – 5.

In this final stage, all that is left for you to do is to mount the solar panels in such a way that it will always receive sunlight.

To achieve this, you need to slant the solar panels at an angle and fasten them to your rooftop or in your backyard.

The next is to run a series and parallel connection of the batteries, build the inverter and battery stand and then complete the wiring.

To balance the system, you should look into these little components including:

  • the fuses and breakers for overcurrent protection
  • what breaker boxes will be used
  • what size wire you will need

Once you’ve gone through these 6 steps, you’ll be off and running to designing your own DIY off-grid solar system.

Experience the benefits of solar-powered systems that solve all your energy problems.

GVE Projects Ltd is dedicated to providing the most reliable, affordable, and accessible solar lighting and power systems. Check out our services page today to see how we can provide you with constant electricity to power your home.

What’s a solar mini-grid?

Providing electricity to rural populations can take any one of three forms: grid extension; standalone solar systems; and solar mini-grid system.

A mini-grid is a small scale electricity network fed by solar energy. Mini-grids represent an interesting and important midway point between stand-alone and major grid electricity systems.

They typically serve remote communities that are not economical to connect to large grids due to their isolation.

For a community that has sufficient population density and diversity of end-users, it makes sense to connect them together.

Using mini-grid systems will save the government a lot of cost in providing stand-alone systems to supply electricity.

The use of a mini-grid also permits the use of generation technologies that might not be feasible or economical at a smaller scale.

Some examples include multiple diesel gen-sets, biomass, as well as small hydro facilities.

However, at GVE-Projects Ltd, we provide electricity solutions for rural, residential and commercial needs using solar mini-grid systems.

We generate and supply electricity– directly or indirectly via batteries – to clients who are connected to this mini-grid electricity network.

A group of people living close to each other, for instance, a village, can easily connect to this mini-grid.

We use the mini-grid technology when our customers have higher energy requirements.

The advantage of a solar mini-grid is that it can meet higher energy demands by for instance local businesses.

A solar mini-grid boosts business activities in rural areas, but can only be realised economically if the distance between clients is relatively small and there is sufficient electrical demand.

GVE Projects Ltd mini-grid rural electrification batteries in Bisanti

GVE Projects Ltd mini-grid rural electrification batteries used in Bisanti

How does a mini-grid work?

The way the mini-grid works is very simple. We use solar panels to capture sunlight, which we convert into electricity.

Electricity then goes to an inverter that converts direct current into alternating current.

The alternating current is then fed directly or indirectly (via the batteries) into the electricity network.

Using pole lines to distribute the electricity around the community, it reaches all customers who connect to the network.

In some cases, a diesel generator is used as a back up for the solar power plant.

The generator will feed the network or batteries at times when solar energy production is insufficient.

While the batteries of the electricity network are recharging via a diesel generator, customers will not have access to the network for a period of time.

GVE electricity network providing electricity to power a refrigerator

A refrigerator powered by GVE Projects Ltd mini-grid system in Bisanti

Advantages of a mini-grid:

There are numerous advantages to the use of solar mini-grids for rural electrification in Africa.

  1. As they’re not connected to the main grid, mini-grids only generate enough electricity for local consumption.
  2. This local nature of mini-grids allows developers to better track and understand a community’s energy needs so electricity supply can match demand.
  3. Mini-grids also avoid the problem of power cuts from the main grid, ensuring a less intermittent supply of electricity.
  4. A more dependable electricity supply allows businesses to stay open later and develop faster.
  5. Clinics also benefit from having constant power supply as well as small provision stores selling cold drinks.
  6. Households can now power fridges, fans and also charge their phones easily.
  7. Solar mini-grid system design requires little maintenance
  8. What’s more satisfying about the solar mini-grid system is that there is no dependence on the import of diesel and fluctuating energy prices
  9. Being environmentally friendly, the solar mini-grid system does not emit pollutants into the surrounding.

You see that the advantages of installing a solar mini-grid system are numerous.

GVE-Projects Ltd has installed a lot of solar mini-grid systems in various communities and business centres in Nigeria.

We are always available to provide energy solutions for your everyday use.

Contact us today to get a FREE quote. You may also like to check our solar packages for more details.

GVE Projects Ltd Address:

Winorac Engineering Building,

Plot 34 Boskel Road,

Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Phone:

+234 909 2227 483, +234 909 2229 483

Email address:

info@gve-group.com