One of the major challenges solar energy is that it is a use- it-or-lose-it technology. Harnessing it is one issue while storing it is another.
However, given the accessibility of the energy source in Zimbabwe, this offers immense opportunity for job creation and fostering sustainable development.
Although solar energy is a costly initiative especially for developing countries, its value chain has significant economic and social benefits that can culminate in the development of the energy sector.
A recent world breakthrough in renewable energy technology by Casper Moth-Paulse, Associate Professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, offers developing countries potential to invest in solar energy. Developing countries can now tap into a new molecular technology that will allow for the saving of energy in the form in a cheaper and effective way.
This will be a major boost for the climate smart renewable energy sector.
Says Moth-Paulse: “Development of technologies for solar energy storage is a key challenge for a future society independent of fossil fuels. Hybrid solar technologies is an appealing way to overcome the limitations in current technology, and by that achieve better performing systems able to harvest and store solar energy.
“We present an efficient hybrid solar thermal energy storage system that combines energy storage in covalent bonds in molecular solar thermal systems with thermal energy storage in heated water.”
Moth-Paulsen says the molecular system can convert up to 1 percent of the incoming sunlight into storable chemical energy. In the same vein, up to 80 percent of the incoming sunlight is transformed to heat in the water heating system.
The chemical system can operate through more than 100 energy storage and release cycles with negligible degradation. The combined system mitigates challenges associated with both chemical and thermal energy storage and enables both long and short term energy storage.
There are vast opportunities inherent in the solar industry though much emphasis has been placed solely on solar absorbing technology such as absorbing panels, wiring and electronic accessories.
The first ever, but affordable battery which has been well received by the market, was produced by Chloride Zimbabwe in 2015. However, the existing gap (in supplies), offers immense business opportunities for small to medium scale enterprises.
Chloride Zimbabwe paved the way by manufacturing a solar battery under its brand, Exide, made from recycled materials, making the battery cheaper and environmentally friendly.
The solar battery came at a time when globally, companies are coming up with sustainable initiatives towards clean sustainable natural energy to cope with climate change in the turbulent restrictive business terrain.
The first ever local solar battery is made up of four major locally made and recycled components; lead plates, glass mat separators, and sulfuric acid electrolyte in a polypropylene container branded Exide Solar.
The battery is designed to provide a steady amount of current over a long period of time.
Dr. Passmore Mataruse, chairman of Chloride Zimbabwe, said Exide made this battery as part of the company’s contribution to social responsibility for the betterment of the environment.
“At Chloride, we are pleased to be making our contribution to the renewal of the manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe by meeting the needs of our consumers who often have to endure power blackouts … solar batteries become a reliable, accessible and affordable backup solution to their needs, “ said Dr. Mataruse.
Meanwhile, this comes at a time when there is a surge towards green, clean and environmental friendly initiatives especially through the use of solar energy.
This offers immense opportunities for solar energy initiatives as alternatives sources of power for countries endowed with longer sunshine periods such as Zimbabwe.