Posted by Zvi Sharoni on Sep 12, 2013

Implementing PV Solar Energy for Humanitarian Projects



A few years ago, I had the opportunity to learn, establish and run the design and supervision of PV energy systems. I left all this when I concluded that this business was on a negative slope. However, I am sensing that there is a kind of comeback at this time, but this is not the reason I am putting PV Energy in our program. Photo-Voltaic (PV) Energy has many advantages to make it an attractive source for Humanitarian projects. We all know and have seen a bit of PV. Remember the old pocket calculators? All of them had a few PV cells on one corner, and the calculator was operational as long as light was available for those cells. I will run through some basics of the PV technology so that we understand the principles when considering a real project (I assume some of you know much more).


How Solar PV works:2:17 min


Making and  Implementing  PV panels: 9:23 min:


Evidently the Sun is what is driving all this and at this point I will add a few facts about the intensity, installation rules and data to design a system and provide predictable power generation for 20 years. The intensity of the sun’s rays has been recorded and compiled by meteorological stations for many years, and this data is available for PV designers. NASA has a data base which is accessible by the public. This is illustrated in the Sun Intensity Map of North America, copied below.

This is the solar energy map from 2008 for the continental United States and Hawaii


Beyond the obvious and logic of the colored map there are outputs of the computerized data to show the available energy for a specific spot/project. We can skip the details and look into the next schematic, showing the typical Sun Path:

Briefly this picture is telling us that the PV panels must be facing south (for the Northern Hemisphere) and optimally, sloped at about 25 degrees- this is more or less aligned with the roof.

I will now turn to some of the economic aspects. The PV was never an economic alternative to the grid. Governments in US and Europe subsidized the PV Power generation for good reasons. This industry was always in a race to achieve Grid Parity by closing the gap. Please see the cost of alternative energies in the following chart. These numbers are for comparison and may not be completely accurate, as they vary daily and various sources provide different estimates.

For remote or undeveloped areas, I consider the PV energy as a very attractive option. For future humanitarian projects, I suggest looking first for small scale applications, like water supply systems. In the next pictures, we can see such applications, one in Uganda and the second in Burkina Faso.


The first one is a system having the PV Panels installed on top of the pump and inserted in the well, through a concrete pedestal. This system is to supply water at the pump during daylight hours only. The second system is larger, having the PV panels and the pump separated. Water tanks for storing water are added. This system can supply water to multiple taps, perhaps to a small village, and can supply water after daylight from the water tanks. We can think of a variety of applications such as water treatment and supply, or sanitation, or others where electrical power is required. All these are highly needed in Africa and other parts of the Third World. I have to mention some the downsides of such remote systems. The main ones are to ensure on-going maintenance and to protect the system from theft and vandalism.

I think we, the One World eClub will be ready to begin such Humanitarian projects in the near future. I am encouraged by other Rotary Clubs doing the same. Their success and experience was well delivered in our program of March 15 2013. I can easily envision multiple task teams working to get the budget and funding, to identify a suitable site, tailor the required system, collaborate with local leaders and get a project off the ground.


PV Energy is one member in the Renewable Energy family.

I will take a leap and go from relatively small scale PV energy application to a mega-structure. Both PV and wind energies are implemented to eventually achieve a "Green" building, in the Pearl River Tower in Guangzou, China.

A few facts on the Pearl River Tower:

  • The Tower is a  71 storey building, 310 m high
  • Revolutionary design concept
  • Designed for 'net-zero energy' (excess power goes to grid). The produced energy will completely supply the demand for lighting, air conditioning, elevators, water supply and reclamation systems.


Energy is generated  by:

  • PV panels integrated in the building's cladding (the facade)
  • Vertical wind turbine with increased wind speed orientation
  • Energy storage system: Fuel Cell batteries
  • Water conservation & reclamation

 Please open the video and take a tour to see the Tower:

Pearl River Tower Movie : 2:21 min:



I hope I triggered us to "Engage Rotary- Change Lives" and last, but not least, to enjoy the opportunity to give.

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