Assessing the Impact of Home Solar Systems

Some of the readers of China Business Watch write to tell us that they want to know more about the energy development opportunity in China after reading two of our reports :
Renewable Energy Development Project and
Gansu Province Home Solar System Development.
Here we’d like to assess the impact of home solar systems.
Perceived benefits
Stand-alone home solar systems can meet the growing electricity needs of rural households. Studies of off-grid renewable energy systems in developing countries have shown that these technologies can provide reliable and comparatively low-cost electricity services to rural households and communities. The supply of electricity from such systems brings tangible social and economic benefits to rural populations in developing countries that include the ability to refrigerate food and medicine, lighting for households, power for small electric motors (such as water pumps), and provision of education and communication opportunities for isolated rural populations.
Taking into account social and technical aspects
Home solar systems are not always the most affordable option, and cost of the modules is a very important aspect. Different components have different lifetimes, ranging from 20 years for the module, to three or four years for the battery. In areas where batteries are expensive, a home solar venture may not be viable. There is also a need to improve after-sales services and feedback from consumers, an aspect that the World Bank's Renewable Energy Development Project is attempting to improve. Home solar systems are also not always as environmentally friendly as they first appear. Batteries constitute a major concern for the large-scale implementation of home solar systems.
The principal technical aspect to take into account is that of system losses. Losses usually occur from the PV module through the following:
Orientation. For every location, there is an optimum direction and an optimum angle that results in the greatest amount of annual electricity generation. When the direction is within about 20 degrees of the optimum, and the tilt angle within about 10 degree of the optimum, the electricity generated is within about 5 per cent of the optimum.
Temperature effect. Other than orientation, this is the principal variable.?If the temperature gets too high, the output of the solar module is negatively affected.
Shading of the module. During part of the day the module may be shaded, and over a number of years this have a permanent effect on the module.
Dirt. Modules need to be as clean as possible. Dust can build up on the module, causing energy losses of about 10-15 per cent.
Maintaining quality has also been a problem in many places. The absence of a quality-control process in production and infrastructure has been a serious obstacle to widespread dissemination and use of PV.?Given the urgent need to assure quality processes in all stages of PV systems infrastructure ?design, development, manufacture, testing, installation, and maintenance ?the PV and financial communities have promoted initiatives to establish quality standards and procedures.
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