An example of the solar power mechanism that is being used in Bulembu
Colin Meier, Bulembu’s Resident Electrical Engineer has been doing experiments - experiments in how to harness the sun’s energy to lower the electrical requirements for heating water in geysers in Bulembu.
“Currently I am working on a project to manufacture solar panels out of corrugated iron sheets in Bulembu for R500 [$90 USD] which is a deal because to buy them costs on average approximately R7,000 [$1,000 USD],” Colin explains. “The solar panels we can make here use the sun’s energy to heat water in a holding tank so that when it arrives in a house’s geyser it is already sitting at 30°C instead of 16°C.”
When water gets funneled into a geyser normally it is at a temperature of 16°C and the geyser must then heat that water to 60°C. But with the solar panels heating the water before it arrives in the geyser the water must only be heated from 30°C to 60°C instead of from 16°C to 60°C. So the solar panel does not cut out the geyser’s job it simply lessens its workload.
From far away this mechanism may just look like a pile of junk but in fact this mechanism may help reduce electricity used by the geyser by over 30% thus decreasing Bulembu's electricity bill
Corrugated iron sheets are used to catch the heat from the sun and warm the copper tubing that runs along the inside of it, which in turn warms the water that filters through it
Water runs from a holding tank through the copper tubing inside the corrugated metal sheet and back into the geyser 14°C warmer than it was in the holding tank
Makes sense, right? Well there’s more…
By simply cutting out a difference of 14°C by using the solar panel, Colin estimates that the cost of running a geyser will decrease by over 30%. When a geyser takes up over 45% of the average electrical bill using solar panels in conjunction with the geysers adds up to big savings for people in Bulembu.
“We’re just in the experimental stage right now,” Colin says. “It seems to be working but the next step is to paint the solar panel black to see if decreasing the amount of reflection and increasing the absorption of heat will make any difference in the panel’s efficiency.”
*Note: all temperatures and costs are approximations.
Solar Power Schematic