Naps Solar delivers off-grid solar photovoltaic systems globally. The company is one of the most important system suppliers to the international public sector, humanitarian actors and non-commercial organizations. International off-grid business presents also a substantial part of Naps’ annual revenue.
Off-grid solutions have been delivered to demanding conditions from the Antarctic to the Sahara Desert and from the small islands in the Pacific Ocean to the great mountain ranges and rain forests in Asia, over a timespan of nearly 40 years. Naps’ off-grid solutions expert, Project Engineer Risto Ant-Wuorinen reveals some aspects of these deliveries.
Risto Ant-Wuorinen, what is off-grid and what kind of systems does Naps deliver?
Off-grid (OG), or off-the-grid (OTG), means an electrical power system that is designed to function without the support of an electricity distribution network (grid). Main components in an off-grid solar systems are photovoltaic modules, battery and charge controller. Alternating current (AC) systems need also an inverter. Each system also includes varying amounts of site-specific electrical components, and of course mechanical installation must be considered, depending on the site requirements. Smaller off-grid systems are in principal similar to those that Naps has delivered to Finnish cottage owners since the 1980s.
Our product range includes also so-called shelf-ready solutions, like the Naps PowerPack. This is a complete and ready solar power system that fits 1 single pallet, including PV modules from 55 Watts to 260 Watts, racks, battery, charge controller and load connection, with suitable fuse protection of course.
One of the most important factors in off-grid deliveries is superior reliability. Many of the sites are so difficult or expensive to reach, that it is extremely difficult to post-deliver even nuts or bolts as spares. In these remote and often disadvantaged regions, even the plywood from the packaging is used as either construction material or fuel. PowerPacks are a relief in situations where critical instruments such as communication equipment need charging and no reliable electricity grid is available. In other places PowerPacks are used to permanently electrify a village or a water pump equipment.
To whom does Naps deliver solutions?
We deliver solutions to corporations, state actors, municipalities and cities, humanitarian organizations and international projects. The high and even quality of our work and equipment combined with the best practices developed together with our suppliers and customers along the years are the best ingredients to keep and grow our international relations.
Even though we get new customers every year, most of our delivery volume still goes to clients that have worked with Naps for years and even decades. For example, we are currently re-supplying an old client, who originally acquired forty systems, with seventy additional systems. This means that the customer was initially satisfied and wanted to re-order from us the new systems.
Where does Naps deliver its solutions?
This year we have sent equipment at least to Bangladesh, Somalia, Guinea, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Mali and Burkina Faso. The crates we are working on now are heading to Malawi. Of course, during our history, we have delivered solutions even more broadly, in fact to every continent. There has even been a Naps solar system in Queen Maud Land in Antarctica for over a decade now. We summed that we have done deliveries to over 160 countries, though some of the borders in these countries have changed during past decades.
What is the role of Naps in off-grid deliveries?
Most often we deliver stand-alone turnkey solar power systems. This means that we design and deliver the entire solar power system for the customer, completed with the necessary electrical, mechanical and project planning. Occasionally, with the most complicated deliveries we, or our partner also go on-site to install the systems and to train the end-users ourselves.
We also update older systems and travel even to the most remote places on the globe. Sometimes we train PV installers in our customer’s organization for local support and guide them how to connect the turnkey systems operational.
We are happy to offer design assistance already during the initial bidding inquiry to map the needs of the customer. From experience, we have found that sometimes tenders for photovoltaic systems may not fully satisfy the true needs of the customer. Here our experience and expertise are highly appreciated.
How do you plan a working solar power system?
In many peripheral locations such as Africa or Antarctica, the system must be able to operate all desired electrical equipment without an electricity network or other power generation. The system must deal with extreme conditions such as high humidity, severe heat, sandstorms and high winds of Africa, or strong UV rays, rock storms, and minus 60 degrees Celsius in the Antarctic. This requires proper battery sizing and high-quality PV modules to keep the battery in sufficient charge. Of course, electrical control systems must also be of the highest quality to keep the balance of the system in changing solar power generation and consumption situations.
The operational life-time of a high-quality solar system is thirty years. This means that it will surely run into changing operational situations that need to be taken to account. In addition, off-grid system should be designed so that they also fill the future needs of the customer, i.e. the needs that the customer doesn’t even know when they are ordering the system. While quoting, a specialist in PV systems needs to anticipate the changes in the operational environment, such as possible expansion of the system in the future, changing weather patterns, challenges resulting from changing weather and other possible extreme events affecting the operation of the system.
We also utilize the expertise we gather from international off-grid markets and use it in the Finnish market. For instance, we use our custom designed storm weather proof module racks in our up-and-coming BigPack series aimed for Finnish cottage PV market. The battery systems that we use abroad in demanding condition are also used domestic systems.
Project Engineer Risto Ant-Wuorinen (picture) sums up many reasons for his professional interest in Naps off-grid operations.
"In my work I get to help people, especially people without, or with poor access to reliable electricity. At the same time, I get to increase the usage of sustainable renewables as a source of energy in the world. Both things are very important to me, so it is very easy for me to be enthusiastic and motivated in my work.
I’m following in the pioneering footsteps of Naps engineering director Hemmo Sallinen. Hemmo has planned and executed international projects at Naps already for decades and has been developing the whole field. I have the privilege to learn from the Grand Old Man of Solar deep experimental knowledge unavailable from textbooks.”
Main picture: Off-grid clients are trained either at Naps head office in Konala or on-site. A group of African installers and end-users were trained during the spring in operating Naps controllers via the Internet. The project was an update of an old project. In the picture: Naps trainer, Project Engineer Risto Ant-Wuorinen (last row, first on the left) and the real Grand Old Man in the field, Naps Director of Engineering Hemmo Sallinen (first row, third from the right).