Every Pakistani has experienced load shedding, high electricity bills, power black outs and UPS battery issues – all of these are everyday household problems now. With problem – there has to be a solution – and in particular with this problem the solution has come up as solar panels in the recent years. Solar panels are creating a buzz and becoming popular in both urban and rural areas where electricity problems are being faced.
The global approach towards clean and alternative energy is attracting more people towards solar panels, and in addition the decrease in the prices of photovoltaic equipment has become a boosting factor in adapting solar panels. After the oil crisis of the 70’s people became more aware of the hazards of fossil fuels hence resulting in researches on solar panels. Right now more malleable and pocket friendly solar panels are being produced at low prices – these are 3rd generation of solar panels, first and second generation panels were less malleable.
Pakistan energy requirements are increasing with the population that is above 180 million now. Time has come for Pakistan to use its abundant naïve resources to overcome the serious energy shortages, Pakistan needs to sustain transitioning from importing energy to becoming self sufficient with making use of the available resources. This is not only going to support the energy sources but also will help in reducing price fluctuations and create jobs and reduce social inequality and greenhouse emissions. Pakistan has also pledged action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Pakistan receives solar irradiation of about 2MWh/m2 and 3000 hours of sunshine a year, according to Alternative Energy Board it is the highest end of solar insulation averages. Bahawalpur’s Quaid-e-Azam solar park is among number of macro level projects that is expected to be completed later this year; it covers an area of around 500 soccer fields and will generate 1000MW of electricity.
Solar panels use sun as a source of energy which can be converted in to power and electricity through a solar system that is made up of different elements that work together to produce electricity. The elements include a solar panel, inverter and a battery. The size of these elements may vary thus putting impact on the Solar system accordingly.
How solar works?
What is a Solar Panel?
A solar panel is the main functional part of the solar system. It is responsible for producing electricity by absorbing sun’s rays and converting them into electricity. This is done through combining hundreds of semiconductors to form a circuit called photovoltaic sell. Light is converted into DC current when it shines on the cells, when the light is gone the cells also stop producing electricity. The photovoltaic cells are packed in a stiff frame that is strong enough to withstand environmental roughness. The frame is designed specially and covered by a glass to protect the cells from rain, strong winds or extreme weather conditions and it also has a built-in drainage hole in the glass to drain out any moisture or water that may have build up in the panel. The solar panels are either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline ones are black in color, without edges and smaller in size, whereas polycrystalline panels are dark blue and generate more electricity than monocrystalline panels.
How Solar Cells Work?
A residential solar panel measures 65 inches by 39 inches (L x W), while a commercial solar panel is usually 77 inches by 39 inches in width. The depth of both is 1.8 inches. The residential panel is made up of 60 photovoltaic cells, while a commercial panel can have anywhere from 72 to 96 photovoltaic cells.
A solar panel can generate anywhere from 50 W to 270W depending on how bright the sun is. This equates to almost 10kWh daily and about 38kWh energy per month. The amount of electricity consumed depends on the usage. A typical house consumes anywhere from 300 to 900kWh per month. Table 1 below shows the average daily electricity consumption of household items.
The amount of electricity consumed depends on how many items are used. Most of the high energy consumption appliances are used in summers like Air conditioners and refrigerators, and with longer summer days, the solar panels are able to produce more electricity to meet the demands.
Types of Solar Panels Available in Pakistan
The solar panels installed in Pakistan are imported from Canada, Germany, China, and USA. Below are some of the most popular brand names that are available in the market.
Canadian Solar: is manufactured in Ontario, Canada and is the most popular solar panel used in Pakistan. It operates in 18 countries worldwide, and is the third largest solar company worldwide. Canadian Solar manufactures 7 different kinds of solar panels. The smallest of the solar panel is made of 50 cells, and the largest has 72 cells. These are further divided into monocrystalline panels or polycrystalline panels. Canadian Solar also manufactures a glass-glass module which incorporates a 2 glass cover and is ideal for installation near oceans or rivers.
Lorentz: is a German based company and manufactures its panels in Germany and China. Lorentz produces LC series solar panels. There are 5 different sizes, with 36 cells the smallest and 72 cells the largest. All the panels have monocrystalline or polycrystalline option except the 60 cell panel. These solar panels have aluminum frames and three layer back sheet for cells protection.
Yingli: solar panels are manufactured in Baoding, China. Yingli Solar operates in 30 countries worldwide, and is the largest solar company worldwide. Yingli Solar manufactures the YGE and PANDA solar panels for residences and commercial usage. The smallest panel has 48 cells, and the largest 72 cells. All the panels have monocrystalline or polycrystalline option except the 72 cell panel. These panels are highly efficient because they minimize power loss.
LDK: solar panels are manufactured in Jiangxi, China.LDK Solar manufactures about 8 solar panels offering only 60 or 72 cells solar panels. All the panels have monocrystalline or polycrystalline option. These panels perform well in low light conditions.
Best Options for Inverters Available in the Market
Household electrical appliances work on AC current, and not DC current, therefore an inverter is connected to the solar panel to convert the produced DC current into AC current. Inverters have different power ratings ranging from 1kVA to 10kVA. The higher the rating, the more electricity will be produced. Table 2 shows the different types of inverters available in the market:
Most inverters in Pakistan are mainly imported mainly from Taiwan and a few from the United States as well. Below are some of the most popular ones:
Voltronic inverters are manufactured in Taiwan by Voltronic Power Technology Corp. They have been manufacturing inverters for over 20 years, and are the most popular inverters used in Pakistan solar systems. The company manufactures 12 different inverters including the Atom, Mighty, Axpert, PowerAVR, Scudo, Shieldo, Defendo, and Aegis series. The Axpert series inverters are imported to Pakistan. This series contains five different inverters which have a power rating from 700VA to 5kVA.
Outback panels are manufactured by Outback Power in Arlington, Washington state, USA. It manufactures the Radian series, Off-grid series, and grid hybrid series. The grid hybrid series is the top of the line inverter series offering 91% greater power saving and return in short period of time.
Morning Star inverters are manufactured in Pennsylvania, USA. They have been supplying inverters to 112 countries worldwide and their products are considered to be very advanced and of the highest quality. It manufactures the SureSine series inverters that offer 92% power saving and can handle 200% power surge.
Types of Batteries for Solar Systems
Table 3 below gives details about the different types of batteries available for use in the solar system:
Commonly Available Battery Brands
The batteries used in the solar systems in Pakistan are both local and imported. Details of the imported ones are as follows:
Narada: batteries are manufactured in Hangzhou, China. Narada operates in Asia, Europe, USA, and Latin America. They are one of the most popular import brands in Pakistan and produce 18 different series of batteries. Each series falls into three categories, AGM battery, new type gel battery, and traditional gel batteries.
Sacred Sun: batteries are manufactured in Shenzhen, China by Shandong Sacred Sun Power Sources Company. It has sale offices in 50 different countries and produces 15 different series of batteries with 6 of the series specially manufactured for solar systems.
Prices and Configurations of Traditional Available Solar Systems
There are quite a few solar system configurations available in the market. Most of them are configured for industries, with only a few options for residences. Table 4 shows details of some of the traditional configurations available in Pakistan. All prices are in PKR.
Prices and Configurations of Non-traditional Available Solar Systems
Nontraditional solar systems utilize your existing UPS. They include a solar panel, charge controller, existing UPS batter, and the existing UPS. Instead of the inverter, the charge controller is used. This system is available in 4 configurations as follows.
700VA UPS system: It supports 2 fans and 2 energy savers. It uses a 300W solar panel, 20A charge controller, and its cost including installation and equipment is Rs 49,000.
1kVA UPS system: It supports 3 fans and 3 energy savers. It uses a 500W solar panel, 30A charge controller, and its cost including installation and equipment is Rs 89,000.
2kVA UPS system: It supports 5 fans, 5 energy savers, and 1 LCD TV. It uses a 1000W solar panel, 60A charge controller, and its cost including installation and equipment is Rs 168,000.
3kVA UPS system: It supports 6 fans, 10 energy savers, and 1 LCD TV. It uses a 1600W solar panel, 60A charge controller, and its cost including installation and equipment is Rs 249,000.
These configurations are cheaper than a regular solar system because they require less equipment. Since the UPS is already set up and won’t require much cabling, the only expensive item is the solar panel.
A solar system takes around a week for complete installation at your home, regardless of whichever you choose. The solar panels have either 10 or 25 years of warranty, depending on which brand you choose. The inverter has a year warranty, and the battery has 6 months warranty. Once the system has been installed, the estimated payback time on the investment is almost 2-3 years.