Solar Power electricity: What you need to know

Roof covered with many solar panels
off-grid or standalone solar power systems can power your premises free of any bills and connection to power company

The use of solar panels and solar heating on your home, business, or farm has many benefits. It can dramatically reduce or eliminate your utility bills. As a clean energy source, it will help to reduce carbon gas emissions.   Besides, it has many uses and can use it to power electronics, lighting, and heating water for home use and swimming pools. But how can you tap into it?  In this simple guide, you can learn all that you need to know about Solar panels use in Kenya. It covers how to install and use solar panels for electricity generation in your home. It covers the following topics; –

  • Types of solar power systems in kenya
  • steps of going solar

How solar power systems work

Wondering how you can harness electricity from the sun light to power your electronics?  in this step-by-step explainer, learn the items you need to install in order to convert sunlight to electric current, store it and supply it.

Related: Solar electricity: Why you need to switch now!

How On-grid solar systems work
on-grid solar systems are hybrid by powering your house using solar and power company

Solar panels make electricity through the photovoltaic effect using photovoltaic cells technology. They are made of silicon cells housed in metal panel frames covered with glass casing.  When sunlight photons strike silicon, it excites electrons to flow from silicon atoms according to the photovoltaic effect. As negative charge flows from cells it creates a direct current flow which you can evacuate it by a wiring system. The more sunlight strikes your panel, the more electricity energy it can produce.

Depending on how you use the harnessed charge, there are two solar power systems: the on-grid and off-grid systems. On grid power systems are a cheaper to install and store if you consider going solar. The off-grid systems are standalone and more expensive for you have to buy expensive solar storage batteries and inverters. The Off grid solar systems are the most common in Kenya.

On-grid solar power systems

In the on-grid system, you have a hybrid energy system that connect both the national electrical grid to your solar power system. You will use a net metering system to measure and record the power you produce and send to the grid when your solar system is overproducing during the day. At nighttime or overcast days it records the volts you receive from the power company. Your electricity utility bill is the difference between the credit of power received and the debit of power sold to the power company.

Off-grid solar energy systems

In a standalone or the off-grid system, your house is not connected to the national electric grid network. Instead, you will buy and install a full solar package that contain solar panels, inverters and solar batteries.

When the sun’s rays produce electricity, the direct current (DC) flows into Solar batteries that will allow you to recharge or store the excess energy gained during the days for use at night. As solar batteries discharge, DC flows through a solar inverter that converts it to alternating current (AC) electricity.  AC runs through your home wiring and it is distributed within the home to power all your appliances like TV, fridge and computers. AC It works exactly the same way as the electrical power generated through the grid by your electric utility company.

How to go solar- the key steps

Having understood how the solar panels produce electricity, its now your time to consider the following next steps if you still need to go solar. They are same if you consider setting a standalone or a net metering system.

Carry out an energy needs assessment: Estimate all the electricity needs to light and power home or business appliances. You can use the power utility invoices or statements to sum the units of electricity watts or volts you need per year.

infographic, how to go solar in 5 steps
5 steps of solar installation process

Seek installation quotations: The next step is to do a rapid market assessment of the available solar installation companies. Look for those that have a good reputation with rich experience. Use their contacts seek for installation quotations for their work to assess your site, install the solar power and commission it for use. Remember a large company is not always the best in terms of quality and cost.

Choose a solar installer: Using the quotations, look for the best company. Look for one that offers you the most quality items like efficient solar panels, smart inverters and free services like free consultation.

Site assessment: after settling on a solar company, do a site assessment to know the solar items you need and amount of energy you can generate per month. The company will advise you on the best brands, cost and other factors to consider when you want to go solar.

Shopping and Installation: having agreed on the best system and most efficient solar panels, durable solar batteries and intelligent solar inverters, the next step is to shop or buy them and start the installation work. While installing a solar power system can be DIY work its advisable to use a qualified solar installation company or consultant.

Testing & Commissioning: You may need a quality assurance or certification that your system will not cause a power surge or short circuits. Solar panel systems are very durable and can last up to 25 years with little to no maintenance costs.

The article is a 101 guide on Solar electricity: What you need to know. It covers the photovoltaic system of how solar rays generate direct current. It makes a distinction between the on-grid metering systems and the off grid or the standalone one you can use solar panels only to power your house. The guide concludes with a simple guide of how to go solar in your home or business from energy needs assessment to commissioning.

Samuel K

Samuel is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at skibicho@agcenture.com

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1 Response

  1. May 29, 2021

    […] Read Next: Solar electricity systems-What you need to know […]

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