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Journal of Energy in Southern Africa

versión On-line ISSN 2413-3051
versión impresa ISSN 1021-447X


SNYMAN, Lukas W.  y  MAEKO, Glen. Design and development of a low-cost system to convert solar thermal energy into electricity for households in South Africa using solar concentrators. J. energy South. Afr. [online]. 2021, vol.32, n.4, pp.102-116. ISSN 2413-3051.

South Africa is, due its specific latitude location in the southern hemisphere, exposed to high solar irradiation levels. Black thermal absorbers have a high absorbance for solar incident radiation, while commercial photovoltaic technology only converts about 10% of energy available in the solar spectrum. In this article, low-cost Peltier conversion cells, that are normally used for cooling purposes, and that are freely available in supply stores in South Africa, were identified as suitable conversion cells for converting thermal energy into electricity. Two prototypes of thermal-to-electricity energy conversion systems were subsequently designed and developed. Particularly, advanced pulse mode DC- to- DC conversion technology, a special electronic control system, was developed, that could extract high amounts of electrical energy from the cells and could store the energy in standard storage batteries. A 3 W and a 30 Woutput continuous conversion capacity system were developed. A power conversion of up to 2 W capacity per individual cell was achieved. The systems used no movable parts, and the lifespan of the systems is projected to be at least twenty years. Cost and viability analyses of the systems were performed and the results were compared to existing solar photovoltaic energy conversion systems. Combining the 30 W capacity system with a black body and reflector plate absorber system revealed a cost structure of only ZAR 0.8 per kWh, as compared with a derived ZAR 3 per kWh for a combined photovoltaic and solar geyser combination, as calculated for a ten-year term. The technology as developed is suitable to be incorporated in South African households and rural Africa applications.HIGHLIGHTS: • Extremely cost-effective harvesting and storage of solar energy in household context. • Development of novel low-cost thermal energy to electricity conversion systems. • Conversion to electricity at ZAR 0.80 per kWh. • Household applications and labour-intensive job creation possibilities. • Business creation possibilities under established intellectual property.

Palabras clave : thermal energy; solar energy; photovoltaic technology; electronic control systems.

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