Everything You Need To Know About Solar Installation and Systems in Zimbabwe

The use of Solar Energy is the most readily accessible resource in Zimbabwe. It lends itself to a number of potential uses and the country's solar-equipment industry is developing. 

Over 90% of residential solar installations are full hybrid solutions offering good balance between overall system cost, reliable backup and savings on energy consumed, the hybrid systems remain connected to the grid but are able to reduce grid consumption or virtually eliminate grid reliance.

Main components required for a hybrid solar installation.

  1. Hybrid Inverter: Must, Deye, Sunsynk, Goodwe, Magneto or Lux Power Low voltage systems 48V single phase from 5KW to 16KW inverters or 3phase 12KW to 5KW inverters, inverters can be paralleled to increase capacity.
  2. Lithium or Super Capacitor Storage: For an average home or small office system we would recommended a minimum of a 5KW lithium battery with a 1C rating for minimal self-consumption and adequate backup power. Additional batteries may be required to increase self-consumption, backup time and reduce grid reliance.
  3. Solar Panels: The correct amount of solar panels will be calculated by the solar installer depending on various factors, amount of power required to charge batteries and to power the household load, how much power is used during production hours and how much battery storage is available for out of peak solar production hours. Budget vs savings will also be taken into account.

Other components installed with a hybrid solar installation.

  • Panel Mounting Structure: The type of mounting required will be determined by the structure the panels will be mounted on, which include roof mounting (Tiled, Corrugated, IBR or Flat Roof) and freestanding ground mounting system. Aluminium mounting is the best option for coastal regions.
  • DC Solar Cable: The cable connecting panels to the inverter or protection box, 4mm,6mm or 10mm cable can be used depending on the cable lengths required, string voltage and amps, if panels for a single string cable will be needed to connect the panels together.
  • DC Battery Cable: Cable size will be determined by the solar installer or system designer to ensure that the correct size cable is used for a reliable safe solar installation. The battery cable connects the batteries to the inverter batteries are charged and discharged with these cables.
  • AC Cable: Connecting the inverter to the mains and DB, the solar installer will calculate the length and size of cable required depending on the size of the inverter installed and the distance of the inverter from the main DB board.
  • Essentials DB Board: All full hybrid solar systems will require an essentials DB if backup is required, which include isolators and a suitable change over switch.

Part of the solar installation includes the isolation of loads that will run off the battery backup, this is all the plug points, lights and equipment that will remain on during a power outage. 
Everything You Need To Know About Solar Installation and Systems in Zimbabwe
Everything You Need To Know About Solar Installation and Systems in Zimbabwe
The heavy drawn electrics like the geyser, stove, pool air conditioners and other power hungry electric appliances or equipment will be isolated or excluded from the essentials DB/Backup depending on the size of the inverter an amount of batteries, larger systems can accommodate heavy loads.

  • Combiner/Protection Box: The combiner or protection box is placed between the solar panels and inverter, the cable from the panels are connected through the combiner box and then go out to the inverter a basic system consist of fuses, isolators and surge protection.
  • Battery Isolation / Dis-connector: Although some batteries come with a built in isolator a fused isolator is normally added between the inverter and battery banks. For optimal performance panels should face true north at a slope of 35˚ for Gauteng and Durban, Cape Town about 10˚ east of true north at 30˚ slope.

With the majority of solar panel installations, the panels are installed on existing roof structure you could be faced with east – west orientation or even south, this results in an overall loss in production per m2 this can be overcome with mounting structures to correct the orientation or the addition of extra panels to make up the loss.
Solar Installation in Zimbabwe
Solar Installation in Zimbabwe
What losses to expect on panels with less than ideal orientation

In south Africa panels facing east at 35% angle will have a loss of up to 21% of the total capacity installed annually, if the slope for east facing panel is less than 35% the loss will decrease, if east facing panels have a slope of 10% the loss will be reduced to just over 12%. Panel that are install flat on a flat roof structure will have about 12% loss. In most cases it is more economical to add additional panels to make up the loss if required. If you have a system that requires +/- 5KW made up of 455w panels 12 panels in ideal conditions will give you about 750KW per month average on a flat installation this is reduced to 660KW per month average adding an additional 2 panels will bring the average monthly production over 750KW.

Off Grid Solar Installations

Off grid solar installations include almost all components required for a hybrid system, if the system is 100% off grid there is no need for an essentials DB board.

Off Grid Solar solutions require storage to power loads at night and during bad weather days recommended storage is a lot higher than a the storage requirements of a hybrid solar installations increasing the system cost with the greatest portion will be for the batteries

Grid Tied Solar Installation

Grid tied solar installations, are used where power saving is required they can be used for both home and commercial solar installations, although they are mostly used by companies wanting to reduce energy cost and to improve their carbon footprint. Although independent power backup can be added to the system the grid tied option does not provided power during outages or load shedding. 

Grid tied solar solutions are cheaper to install per kw than most off grid and hybrid systems as there is no requirement for energy storage.

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