UPDATE: SEE AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE!
I think we all have to make peace with the fact that load shedding is with us to stay for a long time to come. It is when the supply of electricity cannot meet the demand. In fact, ‘rolling black outs’ recently also affected California, as demand for cooling power during summer rose. I also suspect that the grid of many countries is not up to it if all people suddenly were to decide to drive electric cars…
So what do we do?
1) Many people, myself included, have bought a patrol generator. The problem is that they are very noisy and it takes some time and manpower to get everything set up and switched on – which is a problem in itself – if the black-out happens during the evenings. It is always good though, to have a generator as a back up, in case all else fails.
2) You can buy a battery supply with charger, controller and inverter – I think this comes all in one box. The batteries are charged during the day when there is normal power. When the power from the net fails, you can switch to the battery power that was saved beforehand. The problem with this system is that you only have sufficient power for ca. 3 or 4 hours, even assuming you are not running anything heavy. Unfortunately, what we have seen many times, is that after the planned load shedding, there are some of the older substations that simply broke down, unable to handle the sudden upload. It happened here in Silverton a few times after load shedding that we sat for more than a day without power.
3) I have put on 4 solar panels on the roof giving a max. of 4 x 230W and we are running our office and the radio and TV and some lights in the house now from the power of these panels. Normally the sunshine here is enough to charge the batteries sufficiently to last for the whole day and night. Besides the solar panels, you also need a charge controller (to prevent overcharging of the batteries) and an inverter to convert the DC24V from the panels to 220 Volt. The only problem with the system is: what to do when there is no sun….?
(though most solar systems do have the option to also charge the batteries from the net, like option 2) above)
4) What I have noticed now about the weather here is that if there is no sun, there usually is wind. I was surprised to find the other day that a windmill for a private home is not really that expensive anymore. The green 5 blade windmill in the picture with a rated power of 800W comes at a landed price of ca. R4000. As you can see from the picture, it can fit in together with the solar system. You just need an extra charge controller. Besides the horizontal windmills there are now also vertical windmills that work like whirly birds. It is claimed they are less noisy and more resistant to storms.
So, in my honest opinion, the best solution for the creation of some reserve power for a private home is a combination of solar and wind power. I have bought a small windmill now like the green one in the picture above. Apparently it has a built-in brake system if the wind gets too hard.
Truly, I am hoping that when the sun is not shining, the wind will be blowing…..(I will let you know how it all works out!)
As you can see, I have the windmill up now. Must tell you that I had some teething problems with some of the nuts that came loose: due to the wind power, it seems there are a lot of vibrational forces. The solution to the problem was to use Loctite to make sure that the nuts remain tight. I did not have a problem integrating the windmill with the solar panels system, exactly as per the diagram as shown. Be careful to always connect the battery terminals first before connecting any terminals of the solar panels and windmill. So far, it looks like we have enough power now to run the whole office and our lapa and one light, a radio and a TV in the house!
PS. Our total battery power is 320 Amph