Last edited: May 2019
The types of solar power systems in Zambia can be qualified according to various metrics. Most often, systems are classified according to size, application or technology. Below, there is an overview of various types of solar systems per classification.
Types of solar power systems classified according to size/application
Pico Solar (1 – 10Wp) – The pico solar systems are the smallest solar power systems. Other, they are portable devices, or at least easy to transport. Most of the time, they provide power for maximum a few lights and for charging mobile phones.
Solar Home Systems (10 – 200Wp) – Solar Home Systems come in many different configurations and applications. Normally, a solar panel is fixated onto the roof and the battery is located inside the house. The electricity converts most of the time not from DC power (coming from the solar panel) into AC power (normally used in the grid). What this means is that the connected appliances need to be capable of using DC power. The smaller systems are mainly used for lights, a radio and charging mobile phones. Larger systems are also capable of powering a TV, hair clippers or some speakers. Buying solar home systems is most of the time possible by paying a small deposit while paying off the remainder of the system via daily or weekly mobile money transfers.
Customized Solar Power System, DC Coupled (200Wp – 60kWp) – This class of solar power systems is characterized by the fact that it is custom designed for its application. On the smaller side this could be a home with some appliances with higher energy use. Here you can think about utilities like a fridge or freezer. On the larger side these systems could for example power a remote hospital or lodge.
Customized Solar Power Systems, AC Coupled (5kWP – 5MWp) – This class of solar power systems is also a custom design application. However, generally it is a little larger and most often hybridized by a generator. This means they are suitable for more remote locations like remote lodges, hospitals or even power factories. A minigrid or microgrid is often a type of AC-coupled solar power system capable of powering an entire village, town or island.
Read more about the difference between an DC-Coupled or AC-Coupled system here.
Utility Scale Solar Power Systems (1MWp – 100MWp+) – The utility type system is connects to the national grid. As such, it does not power one particular site, but generates electricity usable throughout the country. Even though there are many sites in Africa which have very high solar irradiation, there are not that many utility scale solar power systems as of yet.
Choosing from the types of solar power systems
Which type of system suits the needs of your project depends on a various factors. Including solar power in a solution often makes sense, however, it is not always the most optimal solution. Sometimes people would start their search for a solar power system, while actually they could be better off with a battery-based backup system or a generator (or a combination thereof). The below diagram outlines which combination of technologies is often available to provide a power backup or power generation solution. A good solar power company is able to gather all data necessary in order to provide a solid system design.
Below is an outline on which possible combination of technologies exist for different types of solar power systems. This is for both a scenario where there is a grid available as well as for a place where no grid is available.
When there is a grid connection
|Option 1||Keep the grid connection, no changes|
|Option 2||Solar only||AC-Coupled|
|Option 12||Generator only||AC-Coupled|
When there is NO grid connection
|Option 1||Keep the current situation (no electricity / other energy or light sources)|
|Option 12||Generator only||AC-Coupled|
This tool can provide a first step in getting to know which type of system might be most suitable for your project: Solar Decision Tree [coming soon]