Second-hand automobile batteries are at the centre of a revolution in a corner of the GotaGoGama.
Despite the fact that many electric vehicle batteries are still useable, they are currently discarded in large quantities. However, as second-life and recycling models gain traction in the future years, this is expected to change.
Apart from political divisions and personal agendas, GotaGoGama, the protest site adjacent to the Presidential Secretariat, is a fully-fledged, self-sufficient protest village powered mostly by the protesters.
GotaGoGama not only united the country under one flag in less than a month, but they also generated renewable solar energy 24/7 even if they did not have access to electricity, water, telecommunications, or sanitary amenities.
GotaGoGama is an inspiring manifestation of the power and inventiveness of the Sri Lankan people, with its own medical clinics, library, solar power station, and more.
They showcased their inventiveness with a Presidential Secretariat lighted up with music and light. When it was obstructed, they lifted the banner high up with laser beams. The solar power station’s maximum output is 6Kw, solar power generation is 2Kw, storage capacity is 8Kw, and it works 24 hours. GotaGoGama exemplifies dynamism, tenacity, innovation, resilience, and discipline, among other qualities.
A truck with four solar panels, two inverters, and a bunch of batteries was seen, when GotaGoGama was visited, with many lines from the vehicle connecting to roughly four to five tents. The solar panels on the truck illuminate some of the area’s most important landmarks.
What caused the truck to be stranded at GGG?
The concept was born in a simple Facebook community dedicated to assisting innovaters and inventions. When the GotaGoGama was having trouble providing electricity for the library, hospitals, youth centre, media centre, and the phone charging centre, which charges over 100 phones per day, Ushan Sakuntha, an activist, posted a message on the Facebook group DIY Solar Energy – Off Grid Sri Lanka, stating that the GotaGoGama needed a power station. And that is where it all began.
Mahisanka Abeywickrama, who works in the electric vehicle industry, came up with the idea of tucking a truck in GotaGoGama and giving solar energy with another activist, Sujeeva Premaratne, who works as a consultant.
What made the battery packs come back to life?
Even when Sri Lankans were experiencing power outages due to a lack of capacity to meet demand, GotGoGama never went black. The solar panels were brought up and the truck was provided. The solar power station’s unique feature is that the panel works both day and night. It’s more of a storage location for power.
Instead of falling into obscurity after they stop propelling zero-emission batteries, these battery packs now work together to store solar electricity and discharge it in real time at GotaGoGama, according to Premaratne.
Speaking about the possible breakthrough, he said that many have attempted it in Sri Lanka, but it has not yet reached the point where governmental action is required.
How the truck became a piece of art?
Second-life batteries, according to Abeywickrama, are a cheap source of grid storage and a solution to the electric vehicle industry’s recycling demands. He claimed that as a clean-energy option, the government hasn’t worked it out yet.
He explained that when he was given the opportunity to build a solar power station in less than 24 hours, he had plenty of hands to assist him.
The solar panels were delivered to the location in a truck. There are indeed a series of sheds next to produce energy that are stocked with undamaged second-life battery packs. They store solar energy and discharge it to the tents.
The existing battery packs have a total capacity of 2.8 kw, which is little in comparison to new batteries being built elsewhere, but work is underway to more than triple the storage capacity on site.
Meanwhile, Premaratne said that they recycle batteries that have been used for more than ten years. He confirmed, however, that those batteries may be used as power storage for another ten years before being recycled.
He explained that to light up the GotaGoGama, they brought 16 old batteries and connected them to a solar panel via an inverter, which then powered the library, phone charging station, two small hospitals, youth centre, and media centre.
However, the electricity wires for the private tents have not been extended.
The contributors have now given Lithium iron phosphate batteries in addition to the used batteries.
Why second-life batteries?
Energy storage is a critical growing area for the Sri Lankan power industry. Battery manufacturing capacity expansion lowers prices, making the technology more cost-competitive over time.
Second-life batteries, according to Abeywickrama, promise significantly lower costs. There is no need to spend money on a new battery when the original has already been paid for. Batteries in cars are normally replaced when they reach about 80% of their original capacity, but they can still store electricity for purposes other than driving.
He claims the truck’s solar power station produces 1 kw of solar energy and 2.8 kw of battery energy.
He stated that if the changed battery banks are purchased, the inverter will cost roughly Rs 200,000, and four solar panels will cost around Rs 200,000.
Even electrical appliances in hospitals, such as nebulisers, are powered by the solar energy truck.
Is solar energy stable?
The question now is how much of an impact this method can have. When the chance arises, building minor utility-scale initiatives nudges Sri Lanka’s grid in a cleaner direction. However, the revolutionary potential of the second-life battery concept outweighs this.
Is there a personal motive at work here?
Both Abeywickrama and Premaratne, as well as the university student in charge of the vehicle, claim that the solar panel concept in GotaGoGama has no hidden objective. They claimed that all they need is for the government to see what they’ve done with some discarded batteries.
They stated that they want this approach to be emulated across the country, so that people do not have to suffer froam the ongoing 13-hour power outages.
They said that, despite the political and economic crises, they are committed to advancing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s renewable energy concept, but that what is lacking is political inventiveness and government discrimination against different sectors of society.
PIX BY Kelum Chamara
BY Thameenah Razeek