VICO SOLAR CONCEPT DOCUMENT AFRICA
- 70% of Africans lack access to power yet around 80% of them have access to cell phones. Even when the distribution network does become availability the cost of grid connectivity, especially in undulating terrain becomes prohibitive.
- At the same time, even when there is access to grid power this source is often very unreliable with long outages. To overcome this many Africans rely on cheap imported standby generators to supplement their energy needs. These generators are not intended for continuous use and therefore they are prone to regular and costly failures.
- The social and health benefits of the solar alternative to offset kerosene for cooking, a fridge for food quality, mobile phone charging and candles for lighting is well documented. The problem: not many of these households are able to purchase the solar systems outright and therefore a PAYGO system similar to a mobile phone contract is a sensible option for the energy sector. The problem for the service- and finance provider: How to reduce the risk of breach of contract due to non-payment in a rural environment.
- The opportunity: A solar system with financial security for the service provider and after sale support for the solar unit owner.
- An African designed and manufactured scalable off grid system with long term technical support. The smaller 60Wp system will support 4 LED lights, multiple mobile phone charging, tablet or laptop charging and a TV. The larger 300W to 600W units will be able to support a small fridge. Unit size and functionality can be configured to client requirements but units up to 1000W are considered the target market.
- The solar units are modular and are expandable to provide larger systems with solar electricity for SMME businesses. Clinics and school class rooms can also be provided with electricity.
- Each unit can also power a mosquito burner of particular benefit to homes near open water.
- A controllably working prototype of the basic 60Wp unit has been developed with remote control from a web based portal via the ESEYE network and comm’s card. This enables the unit to be monitored and switched off/on remotely from the web portal with ESEYE managing the whole data interchange and storing and payment of service providers.
- A major benefit of using the ESEYE Anynet SIM is that it supports multiple service providers (with associated payment complexities) and hence increases the reach of the available mobile phone network coverage.
The business concept is for a SPV company to manage and control the whole project. The SPV company will set up infrastructure to control roll out, installation, training, after sales support, collection of payment (mobile technology – pay as you go concept). The recommendation is that a deposit payment be made by the user/ client on signing of the contract. The balance of the unit cost is recovered over a 24-month contract period which the user pays for from his/her savings from other primary energy sources (paraffin/ kerosene) and especially the cheap generators with their high running costs. Once the contract payment is completed the user continues to benefit from the unit and still benefits from the after sales support of the SPV technical team. An assembly, test and support centre will be established in each Country to ensure long term support to the clients.
No environmental approvals required and implementation is immediate
SYSTEM TECHNICAL CONCEPT
The system layout is illustrated below.
- Eseye controls data communication, storage, disaster recovery and payment to service providers in Country
- SMS’s used to communicate with client re status of account, contact details of technical service team, etc
- Payment system to be outsourced to mobile money operator
- Client has access to system status on web portal via user name and password to view account details and system trending/ performance.
SOLAR UNIT CONFIGURABILITY
Other than the solar panels and the batteries (3rd party buy in), the whole design, fabrication and assembly is managed by VICO SOLAR. This enables full user configurability to satisfy market requirements. Below are some options (other than the already mentioned mosquito pads, lights and mobile phone chargers, TV and fridge) that have and can be implemented to the existing system POC unit subject to user requirements and cost (solar unit and monthly data):
- Monitoring of battery voltage and temperature
- Monitoring of solar generation voltage
- Energy consumption (24hrs)
- Vehicle battery charging and laptop charging.
- Solar panel anti-theft system (by pairing to device).
- Location of unit (either by mobile phone tower triangulation (now) or by insertion of a GPS chip (accurate)).
- On/ Off switching remotely. The unit is tamperproof in the sense that if the unit’s comm’s card is removed in an attempt to use the unit when payments are not up to date the unit is rendered useless.
- Units can be modularly inter connected via the aux outputs to double the system capacity if client wants to increase the size of their system. This is also paired.
- LED display lights to indicate unit and system status.
The small 60Wp unit.
THE FRONT END
The SaaS based software has an intuitive, web-accessible user interface using modern browser technology. It provides intrusive alerts of alarm conditions, unit and or battery status, and can easily locate the units on the integrated, zoom-capable map. It is cloud computing technology providing easy scalability without the need to buy new hardware or software. All the client info resides on a configurable database including account and client info, billing history, etc. Data from solar units can be displayed as a chart. While viewing the chart, the user can easily turn off and on the visibility of one or more data types and can also zoom in on a particular time period. The extent to which data is captured is limited by cost and user requirements. The screen shots below from a different project but with similar requirements show: 1) Alarm list and status; 2) battery temp and battery voltage; 3) unit location on GIS map.