Simulating Sudan’s Weather to Boost Prospects for Solar Start-up

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Sara Ver-Bruggen
3 Min 56 Sec

We helped Mimah Limited to maximise productivity of their PV technology for sale in Sudan by simulating Sudan's environmental conditions through: 

  • Providing access to testing facilities at LSBU
  • Providing a Solar Array, a power inverter, a load resister, a solar power meter, and a solar tester.

This enabled Mimah to test their solar PV system and increase the efficiency of the product, protecting it against the overheating.

Though solar photovoltaics (PV) technology is much cheaper today, thanks to the industry reaching economies of scale and higher efficiency modules, the technology remains under-deployed in terms of its potential to provide millions of people across Africa with access to clean, affordable electricity.

Energy use in Sudan, in north-east Africa, is growing rapidly, though 60% of the population lacks access to electricity (ESI Africa). Meanwhile, climate change-induced drought is impacting Sudan’s hydroelectric generation negatively, which is the country’s main source of electricity today, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In 2020, the United Nations Development Programme released a roadmap to unlock the potential of Sudan’s renewable energy and expand energy access. The country’s high level of irradiance implies solar PV generation has the potential to become a significant source of clean electricity, for grid-connected consumers as well in off-grid and remote regions of the country.

Mimah Limited, founded by mechanical engineer Mohamed Habbani, is commercialising a solar PV system optimised to perform in Sudan’s weather and environmental conditions. In order to maximise productivity of its system, backed up by high-quality data, the company first had to find a way to simulate conditions in Sudan to carry out accelerated testing of its product.

While so-called sunbelt countries – which lie either side of the equator – are seen as ideal regions for solar due to high levels of irradiance, overheating of PV modules in high temperatures actually reduces their efficiency, impacting their output.

By working with the Sustainable Innovation Programme, Mimah was able evaluate the effect of simulated Sudanese environmental conditions on panel efficiency, including rainy, windy and dusty conditions, particularly in terms of temperature and humidity levels.

Mimah founder, Mohamed Habbani with LSBU academic, Abdullah Qaban, within the lab.

Sustainable Innovation provided the system elements, including:

  • A solar array to simulate the sunlight,
  • A power inverter to convert current from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC),
  • A load resistor to divert any excess power
  • A solar power meter to measure solar radiation, and,
  • A solar tester to carry out all electrical tests and collect data.

The lack of testing facilities in Sudan would have meant that any testing programme carried out there would have run for a minimum of an entire year, in order to monitor the panels’ performance and gather data during each season. Access to the environmental chamber at LSBU slashed the testing time frame to two weeks.

Furthermore, installation of Mimah’s solar PV system in new regions in Sudan would require performance verification by an academic institution or research centre. The data and report provided by LSBU will help Mimah address regulatory issues in relation to commercialising its system in Sudan.

The focus of the testing programme was on monitoring the voltage and current behaviour under various environmental conditions. Both values were used to determine the power output to evaluate the solar PV system’s efficiency.

Efficiency was found to be affected by temperature within the chamber; its increase led to a decrease in efficiency due to the overheating of the panels. By putting PV panels through several tests and monitoring performance under different conditions, Mimah observed that the application of water cooling, along with a fine sand layer applied to the panel surface, efficiency was increased.  

Testing Mimah's PV system.

Armed with this data Mimah is further developing a heat sink solution, based on affordable cooling techniques, in order to achieve a maximum efficiency.

Prior to working with the Sustainable Innovation Programme Habbani says it was proving challenging conducting the tests, which required updating procedures continuously in order to accommodate the new findings. He says:

“Most of the testing equipment in the market was not very suitable for these kind of projects and had to be built from scratch or customised.”

Mimah’s project has brought valuable knowledge to LSBU researchers and academics and led to the opportunity for a PhD student to be involved in the project, giving them valuable industrial experience. In addition the Built Environment and Architecture School at LSBU has strengthened its laboratory offering through deploying new and advanced equipment for Mimah’s project. It will be used to help academics and researchers to perform similar tests for other initiatives.

Mimah’s project has attracted two other companies working in the same field to apply for the Sustainable Innovation Programme to get support in the development of their solar systems.

LSBU’s academic on the project, Abdullah Qaban, says: “Due to the complexity of the project, there were many challenges the team came across, especially during the set-up stage of the experiment.

“As a team, we have been looking for solutions through research and communication with experts so gaining more knowledge as the project progresses. As a leader of the project, I have enriched my theoretical knowledge and experimental skills in solar energy.”