Category Archives: solar power

Saying Goodbye to Eskom is cheaper than you think

CapeInfo’s Smarter Living Project started off to determine what one really needs to go off the electrical grid — is it  as expensive as  people say or, if one adapts one’s lifestyle, is it affordable or… even cheaper.  Off-the-grid in this case meant no external electric sources at all — no Eskom, no municipal connection. Continue reading

Solar panel window blinds

This is for my wish list but you can pre-order them now at  SolarGaps smart blinds automatically track the sun throughout the day, adjusting position to the optimal angles to generate solar electricity to power devices in your home, apartment or office.

At about $1,000 a m², they’re not cheap… but discount the cost of curtains, the ability to control your blinds with your mobile phone, and maybe you can justify them.  But you can be sure, if this catches on, prices will drop!

They generate up to 100W-150W of renewable energy per ±1m² of window, enough to power 30 LED light bulbs or three MacBooks.  So with ±4m² of window on the north-eastern face of the house, I would be able to generate 1.6-2.4kWh over four hours just on one side of the house.



Getting the most from your PV Panels

I wanted to run all lights, a power-hungry laptop (something I only discovered after I started), medium-sized fridge, wireless router, solar production & power consumption monitoring equipment, and battery charging for laptop, cellphone, camera and power drill. Could I do all this off one 150W PV panel (costing about R1700)?  Be patient, this is an unfolding story 🙂

This is an incremental experiment.  Starting off with “What is the most I can achieve for the least cost, and what lifestyle changes are necessary to achieve that?”  And then growing the solar installation to cater for what many regard as normal living.

Since I was starting at the height of summer, commonsense told me that a horizontal panel would be just fine, I “plonked” my panel on the almost flat and not-too-sturdy roof of a small outbuilding, using the rather pricey but rock-solid brackets from ExSolar, who were horrified by my plan.  But this was my temporary solution whereas they always fix panels that will last the lifetime of a sturdy roof.

150 watt panel

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iShacks — Power for the People

iShack Proect at Ekanini, Stellenbosch

The iShack project at Ekanini in Stellenbosch is taking solar energy to the people, and over 1000 homes have been connected.

After being impressed by solar energy installations for poorer homes in the northern Drakensberg, I was delighted to discover that the biggest urban solar energy project for indigent families is nearby at Ekanini (population about 9,000) alongside Kayamandi in Stellenbosch.  The Sustainability Institute’s iShack Project has already provided electricity to over 1,000 homes. Continue reading

So what is smarter living all about?

In the USA, “Smart Homes” are all about convenience and consumption.  In South Africa (and much of Europe) there is a far greater focus on sustainability and renewable energy… on being greener.

CapeInfo set out to discover the feasibility — and economic realities — of going off the grid.  Is saying goodbye to Eskom (SA’s power utility) an easy and affordable transition?  We’re starting with the basics to see how cheaply one can live off the grid and then expanding capacity to cater for all the normal household items… and winter.  We look forward to your comments and suggestions as the project unfolds over the coming months.

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