Samsung Supplies Solar-Powered Internet Schools For South Africa

Samsung has built solar-powered Internet schools for use in a rural region of South Africa (notably, with careful consideration of potential problems, such as a special design material to protect the panels from theft).

The schools are literally modified shipping containers equipped with seats, desks, laptop computers, Galaxy tablet PCs, and an Internet connection.

Solar-powered Internet school from Samsung.

Solar panels charge modified lead-acid gel batteries, which then power the school.

One benefit of using solar power specifically to power typical elementary schools is that they are open during the day when the solar panels are generating electricity, and not usually at night.

Schools could use very few additional batteries just to keep outside lights on at night, since they would be closed if they are not grid-connected, or they could stay grid-connected and switch to the grid using a transfer switch at night just to keep the lights on, which is a fraction of the overall cost to power the school.

Since the school would be grid-connected in the latter case, it would need no batteries to provide electricity at night.

If the weather becomes cloudy for a prolonged period, the transfer switch can switch the school over to the grid while the solar panels recharge the batteries.

This system is equipped with a clever power consumption monitor that detects if people use the solar setup to power anything that they are not supposed to, such as television sets.

Solar panels are sometimes chosen as a power source for rural homes and building projects due to limited or no access to fossil fuels or a lack of an electricity grid. In the United States, for example, the cost to extend the electricity grid per mile is $20,000 to $80,000 USD, which is four times the cost of an average $20,000 solar setup.

That cost does not include the additional recurrent expense of an electric bill, which adds up to even more than that grid extension cost in the (very) long run.

Using existing transmission infrastructure to provide electricity is easy to do, but building new power transmission infrastructure in this day and age is extremely costly.

The shipping container is 12 metres long and shelters 21 students.

Sources: designboom and TreeHugger
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