Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kayoola: Africa’s first Solar-Powered bus launched

Derived from the word Kayoola (which means mass carrier), Uganda's Kiira Motors unveiled Africa's first solar-powered electric bus earlier this month. Later, on February 16, 2016, President Yoweri Museveni took a ride to officially launch the Kayoola solar bus at Serena Hotel in Kampala.

Launching on Feb 16. Image from The Independent

Kayoola the 'mass carrier'. Image from Kiira Motors

Solar panels on top of the bus to charge the batteries.

According to the fact sheet by Kiira Motors, the 35-seater bus propulsion system is by electric motor powered by both battery pack and soar panels:
  • Top speed: 100km/h
  • Electric range: 80 km (50 miles)
  • Range extension by solar: Approx. 12 km

Powertrain specification

Of interest in this article is the powertrain, particularly those that are related to 'solar' although you can read  here if you are interested in everything else.

Source: Kiira Motors

It is obviously short ranged (80 km), which lead you to think that this can only be suitable for use in urban areas, rather than touring from one city to another. The solar panel could, however, extend the range depending on the weather and the good thing is that re-charging can be done anywhere without worrying that grid power may not be available.

How much?

The solar bus prototype costs $140,000 (RM584,000) to produce, but it is estimated cost around $58,000 (RM242,000) after mass production and is expected to create more than 7,000 jobs either directly or indirectly by the year 2018.

That's pretty expensive to begin with, don't you think?

The Green Mechanics' two cents: 

It's encouraging that Uganda took this bold move of producing its own vehicle to showcase its version of solar-powered electric vehicle (EV). Manufacturing a vehicle that can be mass-produced and able to penetrate the saturated market is already complicated enough let alone one that is fitted with unproven fuel source. For this, they must be given credit.

Certainly Malaysia which has a per capita GDP of more than 12 times that of Uganda's can do the same:

Malaysia Uganda
Land area : 329,847 km sq 241,038 km sq
Population (2015) : 30.5 million 37 million 
GDP per capita (2015) : US$26,600 US$2,100
Electricity -Total installed capacity : 28.53 mil kW 0.71 mil kW
Electricity derived from:
a) Fosil : 87.6%  (2012) 21%  (2011)
b) Hydro : 11.6%  (2012) 59.9% (2014)
c) Other Renewable Energy : 0.8%  (2012) 19.2% (2014)

Source: The World Factbook at Central Intelligence Agency, CIA (US) which is published online.

We don't have to take the route taken by Uganda. We already have electric bus of our own in Melaka and Selangor. A little tweaking without compromising the safety and quality of the vehicle can pretty much be done to install solar panels to charge the batteries.

Building a whole new bus from ground up may backfire as a lot of effort will be required to prove its road worthiness, and brand acceptance in the competitive the market.

Good one from Uganda, this is!

References: Kiira Motor, CNN

Friday, February 12, 2016

Solar parking canopies to save California schools millions

We know that parking canopies are there for one reason - to shield your car from the scorching sun and prevent you from getting wet as you alight from your car during rainy days.

It doesn't have to stop there.

The roofs have done their job nicely, but they can give you more - lighting up the canopies, parking lots, charging mobile devices (and electric cars), and powering up communication towers placed in the vicinity. The list doesn't end there. The point is, installing solar roof is doable and can be profitable.

Case in point - a 325kW solar canopy system in the parking lot of Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY. Image by: Solitaire Generation

Schools save $$$ with 7.4 MW solar PV on parking canopies

While this happened in California, SunEdison no stranger to the Malaysian local RE community.

Back in 2014 it inked a deal with Malaysia Airport Berhad to make Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) the first airport in Malaysia with solar power system. Of the 19MW proposed solar PV system, 10MW was to be installed on parking canopies.

In January this year, SunEdison signed solar power purchase agreements with 25 elementary, middle and high schools in California to install high-performance solar parking canopies at each of the campuses, which is expected to save the schools more than $30 million on energy costs over the next 20 years.

The 5 unified school districts to benefit from the new solar systems are Dixon, Downey, Duarte, Livermore and Newman Crows Landing. These districts signed 20-year PPAs with SunEdison for more than 7.4 MW of solar to be installed on parking canopies in each school's parking lot.

"Using parking lot space for solar solves two problems: It provides much-needed shade for cars from the scorching California sun, and it lowers electricity costs - typically a school's second largest expense," says Sam Youneszadeh, SunEdison's regional general manager of its Western U.S. solar business.

"We've helped more than 150 schools become not only more self-sufficient, but also enabled them to free up funds to maintain their buildings and ensure they continue to be safe and positive learning environments," adds Youneszadeh.

With SunEdison's solar PPAs, these schools can enjoy the benefits of solar energy without any upfront cost. SunEdison will install, own and operate each system while the schools buy electricity at rates lower than those offered by their local utility.

The solar systems are expected to generate enough energy to offset more than half of all the electricity used at each school - that same amount of electricity can power 1,700 Californian homes a year.

SunEdison expects to complete the parking canopies this year.

The Green Mechanics' two cents:
Our schools in the interior are most suitable for such installation as electricity is mostly consumed during schooling hours when the sun is up there providing solar power. Airports in the remote areas are also good prospects as their operations are the busiest during daytime.

Source: Solar Industry Magazine | 14 January 2016