The pioneers of solar energy solutions in Sri Lanka, Access Solar (Pvt) Ltd is a subsidiary of the Access group of companies and is celebrating a decade of highlighting green energy in the island. They are the most technically advanced and the largest installers of solar systems to date, with over one megawatt of power installed in both the residential and commercial sectors in and off the electric grid of Sri Lanka. “In 2002 we ventured in to solar technology by introducing solar home systems to rural villages,” explained Angelo De Silva, Head of the Business Unit at Access Solar. With the government’s aggressive electrification of the rural areas, Access Solar (Pvt) Ltd, ventured to the urban market, pioneering grid connected technology solutions.
“One of the biggest problems when it comes to solar energy is the bad name created by the offering of poor quality equipment sold by many companies.” The market which has seen quite a few enterprises trading in solar panels is not considered a success due to the many failures experienced by clients. “Most of these companies give half-baked and inefficient solutions usually at a lower cost, but this cheaper price compromises on some part of the technology offered, which eventually makes it a failure,” explained Mr. De Silva. Access Solar with a decade of experience in the field and many satisfied customers guarantees quality and reliability, “which is what we are known for. We deliver what we promise,” he said.
Nevertheless offering solar solutions still requires a great deal of convincing to encourage a potential client to invest in solar energy especially since the initial cost is quite high. “An off grid small system is in the range of a hundred thousand rupees,” informed Mr. De Silva and your requirements can never be satisfied with just one panel! Apart from this high initial cost, the solar panels today are at an efficiency of 13-17%, cloudy conditions reduce the amount of radiation energy that is captured, and power generation is only possible during daylight hours. Combining all of these drawbacks; is solar panel technology really worth the hassle? Mr. De Silva a firm believer in this form of green energy speaks to the affirmative.
The Preferred form of solar technology promoted by Access Solar is the Solar Grid Connect System. In a nut shell this is a system where the photovoltaic (PV) array or series of solar panels installed to a domestic or commercial venture produces electricity during daylight hours for the use of the client and the excess electricity, if any, is fed to the National Grid. “We have several customers whose electricity bills are zero due to this technology.” Of course the primary source of power for the domestic or commercial venture is from the National Grid. A smart meter (Net Meter) will replace the conventional electricity meter which monitors how many units or Watt hours are consumed from the CEB source and how many units are fed through solar to the National Grid. “At the end of the month your bill will be the difference in units from your consumption and generation from the solar system, in which most cases the electricity bill being zero.
In most developed countries the governments pays a higher price per unit of green energy fed to the National Grid and hence such houses or even industries can count on an additional monthly income explained Mr. De Silva. The technology proposed by Access Solar has been optimized using the latest technological advancements and methodologies.
Addressing the question of maintenance Mr. De Silva said that the solar panel system has a 25year warranty on yield. “Yes, initial cost is quite high but it is 60% less than the prices quoted ten years ago and I firmly believe that in the near future the cost per Watt will reach grid parity.” The Solar Stand-Alone System is a tool of the past he said, where the panels are connected to a battery which stores the energy until required. “It is still important to rural areas where electricity is still limited, but the technology itself has many drawbacks.” A battery of 90 Amp hours can produce light for four hours and a TV or radio for two hours. “If you require electricity for eight hours then you have to go in for an expansion,” which increases the economic commitment of the client also the maintenance of the system and replacing the batteries which all add to the limitations of the system. Such a system of 13kW was installed at Sethsiripaya by Access Solar (Pvt) Ltd, recently which holds 22 batteries of 200Ah each. “A large space was required to hold the batteries and the energy gathered was used only to light the staircase reaching seven floors” A large installation with a small output of power. Hence, Mr. De Silva recommends the Grid System for urban establishments unless there is a specific requirement for batteries.
Access Solar has an impressive list of satisfied clients who are not only in the government and private sector but domestic as well for both Stand Alone and Grid Connect Systems. The first company to install a grid connected system for MAS Thurulie (Pvt) Ltd in 2008 with 25kW installation, today Access Solar (Pvt) Ltd is the Number one solar solutions provider to the nation and is in the process of introducing the next generation of solar technologies to the Sri Lankan market very soon.