Sunday, May 31, 2009

VVDN’s Solar Panel Solution for Electrifying Remote Villages and Towns Worldwide.

India is making huge strides in solar energy development.

VVDN stands for Video Voice Data Networking, but the company is branching out into some pretty interesting solar products, based on some of the R&D they are doing for their main business.

VVDN reps came to my house Saturday to install a small solar 3-light system. It consisted of a small 1’ square cube that included the solar battery and the controller, wires, LED lights and the solar panel itself. I was surprised at how small the panel was, only about 4 square feet.

The setup was fairly straight forward. They went up to the roof terrace and placed the solar panel in the right place and threw the wire down to my place on the ground floor. They drilled a hole through the French doors to accommodate the wire. They installed the lights then ran the wires back to the box and connected them inside. They connected the wire from the roof and that was it. The battery comes already fully charged, so the “ready” light on the front was already green. Each light has a switch on the front of the cube, but the installer said the next version of the lights will have a pull chain so you can turn it on and off at the lamp.

This system holds enough of a charge to light all three lights for six hours, more if you have less lights on the system.

The LED lights are specially designed to use very little power per lamp. The standard bulb used in India today, the CFL bulb (compact fluorescent lamp), lasts a maximum of 8,000 burning hours while an LED light lasts for 50,000 burning hours while using less energy. VVDN has built an interesting circuit board that enables the lights to use much less energy while still producing a great deal of light. All I know is that when I’ve used solar lights in my gardens at homes in the U.S., they were way too dim to be useful for much, other than keeping people on the path, not nearly as bright as hard-wired systems. These lights are a really elegant and bright solution. You can read by them with no difficulty.

The box features a solar battery, the same as all batteries used for electrical purposes, such as inverters, the difference being that it charges and releases slowly. It lasts a lot longer than your standard car battery (car batteries last 1-2 years; solar batteries last up to 8 years). They’re built differently with different chemicals and internal structures. Yu Yu Din, Founder of Renewable Spirit, an NGO planning to implement solar panels systems in Burma, stated, “You could use a car battery to power your house, but it wouldn’t last very long. They are designed to produce a huge amount of power to start a car; you couldn’t use a solar battery for the same application because you can’t get that amount of power at once – that’s why it lasts so much longer.”

The controller developed by VVDN is really special and is designed to control how the battery charges in order to make it perform at its maximum efficiency. The small system is completely encapsulated in a waterproof, tamper-proof plastic box that makes it not only easily deployable, but re-deployable whenever a family moves from one structure to another. Plus you wouldn’t have to tinker around with the technicalities. The system engineer who came to install the system at my house, Parveen Sangwan, said that VVDN is developing modules that are plug and play so that folks can just plug the system in with even less installation time.

In the developed world, I think I would use these at home for exterior projects, like a garden room or pergola, small cabins in the woods, any place where getting electricity to the structure would be expensive and difficult. In rural applications and off-grid applications worldwide, VVDN’s systems are a perfect solution for how most of the world lives and empowers those either completely off-grid and those with unreliable power, like myself, with a solution that is completely sustainable and affordable. I was thinking that these systems would be ideal for emergency situations where people are relocated to temporary housing, such as in Hurricane Katrina, Darfur and other areas where refugees require electricity for daily living. Because they are repeatedly re-deployable, the systems could be used to help many people in need with minimal cost and no harm to the planet.