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Pocket plate NiCad batteries saving money and lives in Africa

Energy storage reduces mortality rates


The average life expectancy in Africa is only 49 years, and high infant mortality rates contribute greatly to this low figure. Only 41 percent of Africans have access to electricity, and in rural areas that number decreases to 15 percent.

Rural electrification through energy storage systems can help reduce Africa’s high mortality rates. Electricity can power refrigeration to preserve food, and pump filtration systems for clean drinking water. Both of which would reduce disease and the risk of child mortality. Further to this, by diminishing the need for wood collection and water-fetching, responsibilities that are usually undertaken by women, access to electricity can also provide more education and work opportunities, thus promoting gender equality.

Electricity in Africa is often supplied by diesel generators and transmitted through make-shift grid systems. Powering small rural markets with grids and diesel generators is often costly. These systems require frequent maintenance and refuelling, and contribute to global CO2 loads. Decentralised off-grid power production using solar power offers an attractive alternative for life-changing rural energy needs.

A solution with problems of its own


However, the decentralised renewable energy approach still possesses some challenges. A 2003 study conducted by the government of South Africa analysed a test project to provide renewable energy in locations that were difficult to reach with power grids. Unfortunately the project’s energy costs reached .16 Rand per kWh, an amount 50 times higher than public utility costs.

Energy conversion losses between source and consumer were as high as 30%, considerably higher than the 10% figure for grid distributed power from fossil sources. The conversion losses were attributed to inefficient battery storage and conversion from DC generation to AC distribution. The study attributed these high costs to the inefficiency of the Lead Acid batteries selected for the project.

Pocket plate batteries improve outcomes


Meanwhile, in the village of Marovato on the east coast of Madagascar, an innovative project is providing more affordable energy from solar power. Traditionally, the villagers of Marovato have relied on wood gathered by hand and kerosene as energy sources. The new solar system provides the village’s 120 residents with cleaner, safer energy for about six hours a day, and is capable of supplying peak power of 1,400 watts. The entire village currently only uses 490 watts at peak demand.

The system has 24 solar photovoltaic panels that generate an average output of 7kWh per day. The panels are connected to a 24 volt battery that stores the energy. A pocket plate NiCad battery was selected to control costs by minimising energy loss and allow rapid charging and deep-cycling.

NiCad pocket plate batteries are designed to hold up well despite the regular incomplete charge/discharge cycles or fluctuating demand found in solar applications. The batteries also feature an internal gas recombination system to reduce maintenance.

NiCad batteries offer another a significant advantage over Lead Acid designs in hot climates like Africa. Their performance remains relatively stable at high temperatures, whereas Lead Acid batteries can experience performance degradations of as much as 50% with temperature increases of 10 degrees Celsius.

The SEC NiCad range


Our new NiCad offering, the NicaCell and Avantgarde are similar to the batteries used in this small village. SEC uses a pocket plate and potassium hydroxide electrolyte design to provide reliable low-maintenance service through 20 years of deep discharge cycles. This type of durability under deep cycle stress, low maintenance and extreme temperature tolerance are what make NiCad batteries a great choice for projects using renewable sources in extreme environments.


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