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There is a strong preference for sealed VRLA batteries in Africa. Flooded batteries have a bad reputation due to the high incidence of system failures in the 80s and 90s related to lack of watering of flooded batteries. Sealed batteries are also generally easier to ship, which makes them more easily available to the market.

Flooded batteries are preferred by many experienced off-grid system installers in the USA for their lower initial cost and better tolerance of under- and over-charging. Periodic equalization charging can prevent sulfation and ensure bank equalization, but sealed batteries cannot be charged to similar EQ levels without risking loss of electrolyte through cell pressure relief vents. The failures of flooded batteries in Africa caused by system neglect can be seen as more of a problem of lack of understanding by users due to lack of market infrastructure such as trained techicians. Our mission at Solar Nexus International is to improve the market infrastructure and bring quality off-grid PV to Africa. Perhaps we can help flooded batteries find a place in the African market in the future but for now we are going to focus on the sealed batteries.

The African standard battery that I saw was what we in the USA call an "8-D" size, 12V battery, at around 200 amp-hour of rated capacity and +/- 200 lbs weight. Most common brand I saw was Victron, but there were several others. I don't know the construction of these European and Chinese batteries but because it is 12 Volts the odd are that it is a hybrid cranking and deep-cycle battery, so the plates are not as thick as a 6V cell that will be designed for dedicated deep-cycle applications. And they are almost impossible to move by one person.

So for this next shipment to Africa I'm using 6V L-16 and golf-car style batteries from Full River. These are made in China and when our volume justifies it we can purchase them by the container load direct from the factory in China at a substantial discount.

I'm also going to be getting some cheap Chinese 12V and 2V batteries direct from this company to test in some of the systems going to Africa. They were SO cheap I just had to order some samples. The shipping of the sample order is proving to be a hassle, but that is no surprise.

Anybody have any thoughts about batteries?

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