Demystifying Going Green

in #stemng3 years ago

Many times I have friends and associates come to me and express the wish to go green. Going green in my country, Nigeria is hardly a choice people make because they want to save the environment or save the cost of paying the electric bill.

It is something done because most have stayed without power for days, weeks and sometimes months. Indeed I had once stayed six months without electricity from the public supply. The story behind it will make a book. But that will be for another day.

There are options for the enthusiast and would-be alternative energy person who is tired of the use of fossil fuel.

You can decide to harness the energy of the wind, the water (hydroelectric), biomass, geothermal, hydrogen, nuclear energy, biofuel, and the sun (solar energy).

If you reside in the tropics, especially for people in Nigeria which is near the equator, at your disposal is the most significant amount of sunshine.

This is evident when you take a look at the map of the world showing the solar irradiance or solar exposure. It shows the quantity of solar power which falls over a specified unit area.

Looking at the map, you will see the Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) or the amount of sun which hits a horizontal surface, which is of particular interest for solar panel installation, is high in Africa.

The value of the GHI in Nigeria ranges between 3.5 kWh/m2 (146 W/m2) to 7.5 kWh/m2 (312 W/m2) between the coastal and semi-arid regions. Of course, the semi-arid region of Nigeria (Northern part) has more insolation.

On the average, Nigeria experience an average of 5.5kWh/m2 daily (229 W/m2 per day) of solar radiation with a mean estimated sunlight hours of six hours per day.

The land area of Nigeria is 923,768 km2, assuming we have a 1% coverage of the area with solar panels, we will be able to harvest as much as 1854.46 x 103 Giga-watt hour (GWh).

The average generation per day for the last quarter of the year 2017 in Nigeria was 94,627 MWh or 94.63 GWh. This value of production at best translates to 34,538 GWh or 34.538 x 10 3 Gwh.

This result invariably implies that if 1% of the total area of Nigeria has solar modules, it will yield more than 50 times or 5000% the current electricity production.

Some may already know this, and that makes solar energy a very viable source of alternative power generation.

The question now is what to do.

Many that are new or want to try the alternative energy most of the time start off on the wrong foot; they want to power things that will make for a costly system.

Let me quickly make a recap of what a solar energy system usually require.

  1. The Solar Modules/Arrays/ Panels: These are the photovoltaic cells that transform the energy from the Sun to direct current electricity. This direct current is either used to power equipment directly or first converted to alternating current.

  2. The Deep Cycle Batteries: Most times the energy produced from the sun is not used directly/ immediately. There is the need for a place where it can be stored. To store that energy, a special type of battery, which is different from the conventional lead-acid starter batteries used in our vehicles and motorcycles, is required. They are designed to be deeply discharged and can supply energy for a longer duration.

  3. The Inverter System: The inverter job is to convert the direct current from the photovoltaic panel or batteries to alternating current. The output of the inverter feeds the house or whatever needs the alternating electric current.
    There are many types of inverters which I won't delve into as it is outside the scope of the article.

  4. The Solar Charge Controller: The energy from the Sun fluctuates. Just as the name implies, the device controls the DC charge current from the DC to the batteries. It ensures there is no energy is lost due to feedback to the solar modules at night. It regulates the charge current ensuring batteries are charged at the optimum rate to avoid overcharging and insufficient charge from being delivered to the battery.

Now let us jump in into the best part of the article. You have made up your mind that you want to give the renewable energy a try. First, you will have to consider what you want to power.

Whenever I ask people what they will like to the solar energy pack to power I often hear electric heaters, cookers, six air conditioners, eight freezers and ten televisions. It's not bad that you want to power that. It can be powered by the solar energy but at a tremendous cost!

The rule of the game is to power only the very low watt or energy consuming devices. Unless of course, you have a bottomless pocket or you are a Bill Gate or Warren Buffett.

It is always better to strive to acquire low energy device than to try to get a system that supports an energy guzzler.

For instance, a one horsepower air conditioner is approximately 750W.

Let us take a look at the cost of the batteries (I will ignore the cost of the inverter, solar panels and charge controller in this assumption) needed in the solar energy system that will handle that.

Let us assume you bought a 12v 200AH deep cycle battery at the cost of ₦80,000 ($220) each. Four of it will come to ₦320,000 ($880).

To calculate the number of hours that it will stay when powering one horsepower air-condition we will use this formula below.

Backup Time = (Battery capacity x 12V x N x Efficiency of the battery) / Load (watts)

12V= voltage of the battery
N= number of batteries in the system
Efficiency= 70% ( I usually assume a lesser value of efficiency for a more accurate estimate, but I will use 70% or 0.7 for this calculation)

Backup Time = (200 x 12 x 4 x 0.7)/ 750

= 8.96 hours or 8 hours 57 minutes ≈ 9 hours

That is just to power one horsepower (HP) air conditioner. If you make it two, the backup hours is supposed to, theoretically be halved, but in actual sense, the backup hours you will experience will be less than half. The exponential reduction is as a result of Peukert's law. The law proposed by a German scientist Wilhelm Peukert which looks at the phenomenon where a battery's capacity decreases with increase in the battery's discharge rate.

In the above scenario, imagine instead of powering a 1 HP airconditioner that you replaced it with three 40W low energy rechargeable fans. The backup hours will drastically increase as shown below.

Backup Time = (200 x 12 x 4 x 0.7)/ 120= 56 hours = 2 days and 8 hours.

It is crucial that we rule out most, if not all, heavy duty loads such as a cooker or air conditioners when looking at alternative energy. But if you've got the deep pocket to buy enough batteries to handle it, as I said earlier that ain't a cheap option, then, by all means, go for it.

Your best bet as a renewable energy enthusiast is to buy a cheap watt meter in either ebay, or at jumia if you are in Nigeria and check the real wattage of the things you plan to power.

Bulb wattage: 9.7w

Bulb wattage:27.3w

The two bulbs my friend measured above have almost equal luminosity, but one consumes 200% more electric power.

Please feel free to drop your questions or suggestions below. Thank you.


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The is informative and cost effective

I think I will need to install one for myself...

Hello @greenrun there are some service provider giving solar energy and you subscribe to it like MTN which I know of.... .. I really don't know how it works can your explain please

I think you may be asking of Lumos, a portable energy company affiliated with MTN. They allow one to own a portable system and pay for it in installments.

Yea.... Not like you subscribe, you pay for it substantially

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That's awesome! Thank you very much.

I like the fact that you revealed the margin between the current power production in nigeria and soloar power as a potential replacement. It really shows what we are missing in this country.

However, i believe the initial cost of solar power installation is still a major drawback. Although theres little or no maintenace cost. So it is just easy to conclude that the best way to have it is to run only low energy consuming devices on standalone home installations.

Whoever wants to run more energy consuming devices like ACs should be prepared for additional costs, not just in terms of batteries but the solar panels as well. You cannot get more batteries without getting more source of current (panels).

On the national level, i'm not really informed on why we are not trying to harness solar energy. Perhaps private investors could come in, produce and then sell. At least a substantial portion of our current means of production has been privatized. @greenrun, i wouldn't mind if you could shed more light in this respect.


It is simply the lack of will by those in the helm of affairs to do the right thing. They simply do not care enough to implement some policies since most are "immune" to the hardships of others. Easy to do when you are not directly affected. They've got their big generators and loads of fuel to power it :)

Since the answer is still what we all are aware of (the greedy nature of our government) and not a technical issue, then its so sad that we are in this mess.

Thanks for the feedback by the way.

Thank you too.

The land area of Nigeria is 923,768 km2, assuming we have a 1% coverage of the area with solar panels, we will be able to harvest as much as 1854.46 x 103 Giga-watt hour (GWh).

You mean if the guys at the top ain't going into excess recurrent expenditure, we can actually illuminate Nigeria, by just planting solar panels on 1% land mass.?
This isn't funny at all. Well, let's leave the government aside.I am carried away with your calculations for the back up time. Really open my eyes to this information. 👍 to green🏃

I'm glad you found it interesting. Thank you.

This is interesting, I am an advocate for preserving the earth, yes going green by planting trees.
People are not well informed in this area hence they fall victim of high cost in setting up these solar electrical systems as alternative power source to fuel.

Thank you for this insightful post @greenrun

You know we mostly cut down trees here as a form of "development" :)
The problem is that the people interested in it don't have sufficient information as you rightly pointed out.

Good write-up @greenrun, you have succeeded in educating me. Presently I use an electric inverter because in my location I get at least 10hours of power supply daily, this inverter has worked successfully for about 2years (supplying power for at least 2days when fully charged) but only recently I discovered that it doesn't supply power for up to 20 hours. Will changing the battery bring back the good old days?
Thank you.

Yes, each battery has a certain number of times it can be charged and discharged before the backup time reduces.

There is also an option of purchasing only the deep cycle batteries and the inverter system and you could charge the batteries with the public power supply. 4 good hours of charge of the batteries could power the light bulbs and fans through the night. This would suffice until one has money for the solar panels.

Yes, you can decide to charge the batteries only with electricity from either public power supply or generator. Or to run a hybrid system (solar and electric supply).

Good option. But it can only be obtainable in areas where electricity is available but not stable. Majority of my time in the university, I could count how many times we had power in a month. So it would become practically useless. Except you buy a generator to charge the battery.

@real2josh, that's correct. You'd need a fairly supply of electricity to ignore solar. But if you live in areas that have less than 24 hours of electricity in a week, it'd be best you go the solar energy way.

So you know something laidis

I'm shocked too o. She's always playing never knew she's an electrician.

Ahan, she's not an electrician, she's an electrical engineer...
Please give her tush title

Vhe vhe.... Your head is there jare...

Ahhhh.... Anty Zizy has cast me oo

@zizymena, you are quite a hilarious character :)

Hehe yes I am that and much more😁

My sister, me sef shock as I write this comment🤣🤣

Good work in the analysis of cost. I actually have this friend @olajidekehinde who researched the effects of irradiance and temperature on the current output of the solar panel for his final year project. And he employed the newton-raphson method of solving non-linear, non-homogeneous differential equation to develop a model. some interesting stuff.

He also does a lot of solar posts and installs the entire solar inverter ststem for clients. I really enjoy reading this anyways. So, do you do installations, or you just researched the BEME?

I've read his articles and commented on a few. I'm a huge fan of renewable energy, so I understand how it works. This is not solely based in research. Newton-Raphson finds a lot of application in power system engineering calculation. Thank you.

Renewable energy has a lot of work to do in our lives.. I believe it is the future and as for solar power i was lucky to have done my research thesis developing a solar incubator..
Nigeria happens to be blessed with this power we fall where the solar radiation is high. We are yet to fully harness its power but i believe in few years to come we would.

I love the way you came up with the calculations though.

How did the research go? Was it successfully implemented?

It was successful.. I monitored it for some days and it worked. I would be sharing details about the project work soon.

Solar energy is an awesome one.

You know most times it's funny how people want to power heavy duty appliance with alternative energy not like its a bad idea oh, it's just like you said really expensive.

All i need now is just Power for my gadgets and a fan and I'm alright.

I seriously wish something could be done about the electricity issue in Nigeria, it's really saddening.

Come to Asaba. We have constant light and electricity is not a problem.

@zizymena, you are the lucky ones.

Oh yes we are. I can't remember when last I drew a generator.

Wow, I'll consider that place for nysc then

Shey u know anybody wet fit work am go there?
Me sef go soon go NYSC and I nor dey ready to dey suffer light.

@doris-adioha, serve wherever they post you. I know friends who were posted in parts of Nigeria where they were forced to use Niger network to communicate. If they make a call to us, it will be an international call :)

Hehehe.... I knew you would say something 🤣🤣🤣🤣

@vheobong, you are not alone.

I thought you would suggest every one wears "green" clothing everyday and paint their horses green! Lol.

On a more serious note, it is quite a wonder that the advantages of harnessing Solar energy in this part of the world are very high yet, no one in the government is saying anything about it. They are more interested in winning elections.

Elections gets them paid. On the other hand, you having electric power supply don't :)

Now this is pure savagery....🤣🤣🤣

Ironically true!

I'm glad you think so :)

@doris-adioha, it's a sad but true situation. We can only hope the future will be better or we take our destiny into our hands. The red and blue pill is now right in front of us, we can only pick one and push ahead.

Baba well said. The major issue with people requesting for solar system installation is just like you rightfully stated, they expect it to power all home appliances. Another issue you didn't point out is the issue of battery and solar panel maintenance. Dust particles on the panel can reduce its output by almost half.

I didn't point out a lot if things due to time and space for it. I only talked a little on batteries. Nothing on solar panels, charge controllers or inverters. Thank you.

Wow! I'm blown away by this article. The fact that you not only took us through the types of renewable energy available to us, you also explained extensively what it takes to own a solar and operate it.

People, especially here in Nigeria are known to abuse electricity even as low as its supply is. We don't try to understand how things work.

Solar energy is quite making waves around now but many still don't get it to last due to excessive loading...This is quite comprehensive and interprets efficiency.

Nice input sire. I learnt!

Thanks for the awesome comment.

Always a pleasure

interesting solution too you come up with that's what i like about your post :)

This is a great post and like Nigeria, most Cameroonians want to power everything with Solar but they need to understand it comes with a mountain cost. I really enjoyed reading this informative post and my question is, how can we make solar energy equipments to be cheap in Africa? What can we do to attract foreign investors?

I think the best way is to start producing it! Another short-term measure is for the government to subsidise it. The solar energy technology is an expensive one at the moment. Unless there's a groundbreaking technology to bring down the cost of production further, I'm afraid we may continue to pay high for it.

People are already investing in solar energy technology. We have lumos and a host of others.

Thanks for this and its true that if governments can subsidize it, it will be rapidly embraced by communities but most importantly, if we can start production, things will be great!

I really appreciate this wonderful information on the use of solar panels as an alternative to generate electricity. But did our government really have all this information or they just decide to snob it? we are rich enough in Nigeria to have 24hrs uninterupted Power supply.Thanks @greenrun

so interesting! i never thought of how solar energy was stored / deep cycle batteries. thanks for posting :D

I don't have any question. I'm just shocked to find out you are a Nigerian. Wow! What a interesting discovery.

Wow, I'm surprised you don't know that even when it's explicitly stated on my profile :)

I guess I never checked the profile. I just read the post and drop my comments. Nice knowing anyways😁

It happens to the best of us ☺️

Yeah. Nice meeting you sir!

Thank you Ma :D

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Nice job! I never knew that the more power u consume on solar the more money u spend. I was in a friend's house last month. They were actually using solar but what I noticed was that they were not using air condition despite the fact that they have about three air condition in the house. Your write up really give me an insight on solar energy which I never had. Thanks for the good job.

@celebritypoet, nice choice of username. Yeah, they just want longer backup time based on the number of batteries they have. Thank you.

@vheobong, chilling? I think you earned that :D

The bot's message got me chilling