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News from GATE

Adaptation of Solar Energy Technologies to the Needs of Users

by Joachim Prey

GATE is planning an integrated programme to develop, test and adapt solar energy technologies to the needs of users in rural regions of developing countries. The aim is to adapt photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies so that they are suitable for user-specific and location-specific conditions in the regions where they are to be used, and to develop them to the point where they are reliable, safe and economical, so that they are more in line with the needs of the rural population.

In these regions it is not so much a comprehensive, highly-organized and centralized energy supply structure that is required, but a basic energy supply for small units. These units may be individual households, small farms or public utilities at the lowest level, e. 9., health care units, training facilities and communications installations. Basic energy services of this kind do not need a great deal of energy. As far as electricity is concerned, for instance, in most cases an installed peak capacity between 0.05 and 1 kW is sufficient. And technologies based on exploiting solar energy are ideal for this purpose.

Good solar radiation conditions are of course an essential prerequisite. However, it has been established that precisely in the remote, often mountainous regions conditions are often good to very good, and that problems are only likely to arise in extreme tropical regions. The bright future that optimists have always seen for solar energy indeed exists, but the way forward is longer and more difficult than was hitherto assumed.

Development not in line with needs

Solar energy technologies are not yet being exploited on a very big scale, with the possible exception of heating water by means of solar collectors. The reason for this, apart from the fact that some technologies are uneconomic, is that not enough attention is paid to location-related and user-related technology parameters. Of course, for developers and producers of such technologies, and especially for small and medium-sized businesses, it is very difficult to translate this kind of appropriateness - for needs and users - into product development: they lack the know-how and the resources for analyses of needs and on-site testing, both of which are essential.

Tackling this problem, and playing the part of a mediator, will be among the principal tasks in the programme designed by GATE for the "development, testing and adaptation of solar energy technologies for rural regions in developing countries". The aim of the programme is to provide appropriate solar energy technologies which are mature and adapted to the location-specific and user-specific conditions of typical areas of need, and to provide stimuli for their subsequent dissemination.

GATE Solar

Energy Programme

The flexibility necessary for this will be achieved by designing an overall programme which combines general functions in a planning, control and analysis unit and carries out testing in the form of independent test modules which are representative of widespread areas of need. The arrangement and number of the test modules can thus be adapted to take findings resulting from testing into account.

In a test module of this kind, promissing solar energy technologies will be installed at suitable locations representative of typical areas of need); their technical and environment-related parameters will then be monitored fore prolonged period of time. Recording of operation, analysis of technical and/or environment-related weaknesses, and determination of the level of acceptance by user groups will form a phasis for determining what further development is needed. The research findings will be made available to research groups and products to guide them in improving the technologies. Such improved technologies again will be tested until the problems are solved.

Initially six test modules

The results of testing, and the recommendations for further techological development deriving from them, will be passed on to the manufacturer and other interested manufacturers and organizations. In this context the Programme will assume the role of an initiator, aiming encourage manufacturers and other organizations to develop and adapt their products further with application in mind, and supporting them in this with know-how gained from testing.

At the same time an attempt will be made to produce simple to-use and easy-to-understand guides to design and dimensioning (including computer programs), to enable technically competent laymen in TC projects or elsewhere to design and dimension systems themselves. In this way it will not be necessary to go to the expense of hiring an expert.

Six test modules have been selected in advance for a two-year pilot phase. For one thing, they represent typical areas of need using technologies which have great potential for dissemination but have not yet been sufficiently developed; for another, they are modules for which suitable locations have been identified.

Further modules are being prepared, so that it will be possible to carry out a total of ten test measures in the pilot phase. The design of the programme is such that if the approach proves basically satisfactory a smooth transition from the pilot phase to the actual implementation phase will be possible; in this latter phase, modules that are representative of promising technologies or important regions will be tested for a longer period.

Smog Alarm Plan Being Prepared

For some years now a total of 14 air monitoring stations have been furnishing data on air pollution in Ankara. In the winter and summer months especially, the inhabitants of the Turkish capital have to put up with high concentrations of SO2, NOx and O3.

Since 1986 GATE has been assisting the Turkish authorities in their monitoring programme. The short-term advice, which is given two or three times a year, primarily covers correct calibration of the measuring instruments and organizational and management questions connected with the preparation of the smog alarm plan for the Turkish capital.

Programme for the Introduction of Photovoltaic Pumping Systems

On the commission of the Federal German Ministry for Research and Technology, and in conjunction with the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation, the German Appropriate Technology Exchange (GATE), is planning a programm for introducing photovoltaic pumping (PUP) systems in developing countries

Priority criteria in selecting the PVP systems are durability, simplicity and low maintenance. The PVP systems are, however, not intended to compete with the performance capacity of hand pumps.

The implementation of the PVP-systems is set for 1989.

The context of cooperation

The project addresses first and foremost the rural population as its main target group. It will be imperative to involve these people in the planning, construction, operation and maintenance of the pumping systems.

The programme aims to improve the present situation in rural areas as regards the supply of water for drinking, watering animals and irrigating crops.

The programme schedules the field testing of about fifteen technically-reliable, economically-competitive and site-appropriate photovoltaic pumping systems in each of a number of selected countries, thus laying the foundations for a widespread dissemination programme.

The PVP application ranges and performance data will be specified in greater detail in the further course of planning, following consultations with the countries involved.

Of equal importance for the programme's success will be its incorporation into the various countries' planning framework for water supply and sanitation measures.

Participation by specialized, experienced executing organizations such as water and/or energy authorities will constitute a third basic prerequisite for the successful! implementation and sustainability of the PVP programme.