Last edited: August 2018
Solar power systems in Zambia can be qualified according to various metrics. However, most commonly, systems are classified according to size, application or technology. Below is an overview of various types of solar systems.
Classified according to size/application
Pico Solar (1 - 10Wp) - Pico solar systems are the smallest solar power systems and are very often portable devices, or at least easy to transport. They are mostly used for providing 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. The solar panel is normally fixated onto the roof whereas the battery is located inside the house. Normally the electricity is not converted from DC power (coming from the solar panel) into AC power (normally used in the grid). This means 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, whereas the larger systems are also capable of powering a TV, hair clippers or some speakers. Many solar home systems are bought by paying a small deposit while paying off the remainder of the system via daily/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 (such as 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 custom designed for its application, however, it is generally a little larger and is most often hybridized by a generator. These systems would also be used to power remote hospitals and lodges, however, they are also applied to 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+) - This type of solar power system is connected to the national grid. As such, it does not power one particular site, but rather generates electricity which is used 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.
Find a list of the largest solar power systems in Zambia <here>
The Right Type of System
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 technologies are often combined to provide a power backup or power generation solution. A good solar power company is able to gather all data necessary <link to the process page> in order to provide a solid system design.
Below is an outline which combination of technologies might be used, both for 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>