An Introduction To iShaja

 

I was asked how it came about that I set up an online store selling photovoltaic panels. There is no short answer. Rather, this was, for me, a journey of discovery. If you know what you need, or want to skip straight to the technical stuff, please move on to the relevant detail. If you’re intrigued, read on.

During one of our endless electricity blackouts, on day three, with all devices empty of charge, data depleted, I had gone through all the emotions of mourning the loss of connectivity to the world. The lost hours of work. Time on my hands and couldn’t get to the end of my audio-book. My friend popped over and asked if he could assist with charging my battery. My inverter is connected to the grid, not solar powered, and was long dead.

He trundled back, carrying a heavy panel and mumbled what sounded like “what what”. I agreed whole-heartedly that Eskom was a disaster and what what. No. He was trying to explain to me that his panel was however many watts. The size of it. The amount of power it was able to unleash. Really. Next thing there were wires and clips and meters and what what. And so started my questions about all this intrigue unfolding before me. My friend tried his best to explain to me. Me, who had several decades ago bunked high school science and math classes.

He became exasperated, said he was going out to mates, and left me with all this paraphernalia and a challenge. Anne, he said, if you can read, you can learn. I started reading. And learning. And questioning.

Now, fascinated, at the first opportunity I bought a small solar panel. 10 watts. Surely it could do something, right? Once home, I opened the box, and there was the panel, with a 10cm wire, which branched into black and a red smaller wires, at the end of which was a black and red crocodile clip. Now what? I asked the local hardware store what to do next. I was told that the panel connects to a battery. No, they did not sell batteries. At the hardware store down the road, I was told that one should never connect a panel directly to a battery, a solar charge controller should be connected in between the panel and the battery. No, they did not sell solar charge controllers, nor batteries. How would I connect wires? Use tape. No, that doesn’t sound safe. Well, here are terminals that you need to crimp. But that’s packet of 20 – I only need 2. Sorry we don’t sell them loose.

I eventually got what I needed. In abundance. And I did learn, and experiment, and question, and experiment again. I learned that wires are cables. That cables come in various sizes, specific to various parameters. That cables are not connected with tape. There are lugs and ferrules and soldering and heat-shrink tubing, and a myriad of solutions.

Many calls were made to many electricians. I spoke to some, left messages for others, in an attempt to get professional input. I’ve not had a response from any. I indicated that I wanted information for small solutions, to provide power to charge cell phones, tablets, 12V batteries, inexpensive options for lighting. No response. Perhaps the industry is inundated with call-outs considering our the realities of our national grid. Perhaps there is too much work on the big stuff – big installations.

Then came to mind the many folk not able to install a full home solar installation. About the many folk not able to afford a battery and inverter. What about the generation at school, how do learners study? And, what about the millions without any electricity supply. About the millions relying on paraffin lamps, and all the dangers and horror stories associated with paraffin accidents. How do folks living in cities communicate with loved ones in rural areas if a phone battery can’t be charged? And here I am, privileged, with a line of communication open, and I can’t get any assistance on finding an inexpensive solution.

I have several decades of experience in international logistics. International trade. It is in my blood. It is the same passion, be it arranging a shipment of 25 kgs, or a 300 tonne project on a charter ship, to move cargo from a building yard or factory, anywhere in the world, to its final destination somewhere else in the world.

I have used that knowledge to source solutions. To marry my life-long love of international freight, to my new- found intrigue with portable power. To offer, in a one-stop shop, everything needed for a small solution; from a small photovoltaic panel, to cables, soldering, or connecting, to lighting solutions. These solutions are small. They do not take the place of a full electrical installation. They are mobile. They are a stop-gap. They are convenient. They should never be wired to your distribution board. They should ALWAYS be handled with care. When in doubt, call your local electrician.

Before you finalize any purchase from my shop, I urge you to refer to my Information Station. Consider what your requirements are, refer to the information provided, and decide on a solution. Should you want more information, please send an email, or WhatsApp. I’ll do my best to reply within a day.

And, if you’re as intrigued as I am with this wonder that is power, that is energy, I will search for answers, and continually add content to the Information Station. Where I find easy to understand guides on “how to”, I’ll share links. If you are an expert in the field of solar, or electronics, or electricity, and are willing to share knowledge, please reach out to me.

Be safe.

Anne

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