Dr MuhaiminDr. Abdul Muhaimin bin Mahmud, email:

Unit Perunding Kecekapan Tenaga Elektrik, Cawangan Kejuruteraan Elektrik, JKR Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Dr. Abdul Muhaimin Mahmud has been involved in the design, supervision, system performance analysis and system maintenance of solar PV system for almost 14 years. He is an ISPQ certified designer and installer for off-grid solar PV system.


Mohd QuyyumMohd Quyyum bin Ab Rahman, email:

En Mohd Quyyum Ab Rahman has been with Unit Perunding Kecekapan Tenaga Elektrik, Cawangan Kejuruteraan Elektrik, JKR Malaysia, since 2010 and involves in solar PV system projects. He is a SEDA certified designer for grid connected solar PV system.

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1.0 Introduction

Alternative energy technology has been used widely in Rural Electrification Programs (REPs) for many years now. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass, are the preferred choices given the abundant resources available on site and the sophistication of the technologies involved. Combinations of two or more of the resources, together with an energy storage system and occasionally a conventional energy generator, create a hybrid system, which is reliable and durable.

REPs encompass the process, plans, programs and initiatives overseen by the government, the private sector, institutions or organizations in the name of fighting poverty, enhancing economic growth and balancing out the development between urban and rural areas.  People and communities can embrace modern civilization if electricity is made available because it can benefit their lifestyle by improving health, education, the economy and technology. Among all the renewable energy technologies that available, the solar PV system is a popular option in off-grid rural areas.

Malaysia has a long and successful history of rural development since independence. Through the various Malaysia Plans (5 years), the Government has made rural development a key item on the national agenda. The rural and remote community has become one of the top priorities of the Government to provide them with adequate and sustainable infrastructure to precipitate the social and economic improvement on par to the more developed urban community. In Malaysia, solar photovoltaic (PV) base systems, implemented on a large scale, can provide round-the-clock electricity services for areas that are inaccessible by the electricity grid network.

In addressing the need to improve the living standard in the rural areas as well as to ensure that rural Malaysians are not deprived of the basic amenities for a better quality of life, several ministries and government agencies have involved in the implementation of the REPs, such as Ministry of Rural and Regional Development (Community electrification program), Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (Universal Service Provision Project) and Ministry of Education (Solar PV hybrid system for rural schools).

2.0 JKR involvement in solar photovoltaic system technology

JKR,  has made tremendous contributions to the implementation of the REPs by giving support and consultation to the Government in executing the project. Its main tasks include system design, advising in the procurement process, and supervision during the installation and warranty period.

JKR involvement, under Cawangan Kejuruteraan Elektrik (CKE), started back in the year 2004 where CKE was given the responsibility to implement a 1 kWp stand-alone solar PV system for 114 rural ICT centres (Figure 1). In 2006, CKE was involved in another  project which was 5 kWp stand-alone solar PV system for 260 school computer lab (Figure 2).

Later in 2008, the Ministry of Education (MOE) appointed CKE to manage their rural school electrification project in Sabah using solar PV hybrid system. The project was divided into two phases. The first phase involved 78 schools (Figure 3) while 84 schools were installed with the system in the later phase (Figure 4).

The system for phase two was designed in-house by CKE. The school electrification program is continued for another 369 schools in Sarawak in 2017 – 2019. The continuing  JKR involvement in the solar PV system project for rural areas signifies the testimony on JKR expertise in the field of renewable energy technology.

Figure 1. Universal Service Provision (USP) project at Long Jekitan, Sarawak.

Figure 2. Schoolnet project at SK Poring, Sabah.

Figure 3. 20 kWp solar PV hybrid system (Phase 1) at SK Penontomon, Sabah.

Figure 4. 30 kWp solar PV hybrid system (Phase 2) at SK Pulau Bait, Sabah.

3.0 The rural schools electrification project in Sabah

3.1 System profile

The solar PV-diesel hybrid system is uniquely designed to suit the school loading and daily energy demand profile. The system relies on renewable energy through a solar PV array, which is used to generate the electricity energy required by the school, and a battery bank for the purpose of energy storage in order to supply electrical power to the loads, mostly during the night. Figure 5 shows examples of the installation and components of the system.

Two types of system, which are AC-coupled and DC-coupled systems, are used. Seventy-four systems involve DC coupling, while another 86 systems are formed by AC coupling configuration. The energy storage system uses lead acid batteries of the following types: flooded vented lead acid (VLA) and valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries. A diesel generator functions as the backup to the system, if energy generated from the solar PV or the battery system is insufficient to meet the energy demand from the load, as well as charges the battery system.

The operation of the system is controlled and DC voltage is converted to AC voltage (vice versa for bidirectional inverters) by the inverter system, which is a combination of several modular inverters. For the DC-coupled system, a charge controller regulates the current generated by the solar PV.

Figure 5

Solar PV SK Matupang

Solar PV with a capacity of 40.32 kWp at SK Matupang
Grid Systemat SK Sungai

grid inverter systemat SK Sungai
Lead Acid Battery
1,750 Ah vented lead acid battery bank at SK Kuala Kahaba

3.2 System application

The system is designed to supply electricity to every school building, i.e; classrooms, offices, the computer laboratory, teachers’ quarters, the student hostel, the dining room, the guard house and other buildings within the school boundary. Figure 6 presents examples of school buildings and surroundings:

Figure 6

(Left) Teachers’ quarters at SK Sungai sungai, (center) school buildings at SK Luasong and (right) classroom at SK Pangas

3.3 System design concepts and characteristics

Designing a solar PV system, which is high in quality and specification and uses the latest technology available, should be taken into consideration in relation to the local context and local participation. This approach should guarantee the long-term sustainability of an REP. CKE has taken initiatives to develop solar PV system design concepts and characteristics to ensure the system is technically reliable and durable as well as benefiting the end users.

a. Future grid electricity network

Some rural areas in Malaysia may be connected to the electricity service by the grid network in the near future. Thus, the system was designed with the capacity to be integrated into the electricity network by the grid, should the service be made available in the future. This approach guarantees that the system components can be used for the whole of their lifetime and enable the electricity energy produced by the system to be sold to the electricity grid network.

b. System with a modular concept

The remoteness of the school and the access conditions to the area in which it is located created challenges and risks, especially in terms of delivering equipment and components. To ease this risk, the system was designed with a modular concept. The solar PV system and structure were designed and manufactured with a system capacity of 10 kW, 15 kW and 20 kW per structure. For example, a 30 kWp solar PV system consists of two solar PV structures, each of 15 kWp. This characteristic eased the delivery process and made the manufacturing process quicker.

c. Elevated solar PV structure and powerhouse

The solar PV structure was built at a minimum height of 4 m from the ground for several reasons. Much of the school has a limited area and the land is sometimes shared with the community. As the only available space is the school playing field, using the field for the solar PV system restricts the school’s activities. Therefore, the elevated solar PV structure allows the space under the structure to be used for school activity as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Car park at SMK Timbua.

Figure 8. Badminton court at SK Luasong.

Figure 9. Temporary classroom at SK Matupang (school buildings were damaged by storms).

Figure 10. Night time at SK Pulau Denawan.

Some of the schools are located near to rivers. In the rainy season, which takes place from November to February each year, the areas are prone to flood. Raising the solar PV structure and the powerhouse will prevent damage to the system components, as shown in Figure 11. It also helps to prevents vandalism to the solar PV modules.

SK Sungai Elevated Solar PV

Figure 11. The elevated solar PV structure and powerhouse at SK Sungai sungai.

d. Energy management

All loads are only turned on when required. All loads in the school buildings are turned off when there is no occupant in the room, except for equipment that is required to operate round the clock, such as a refrigerator. For the teachers’ quarters, a load limiter device is installed to manage the extra load that may be used. The electricity cuts off automatically when the maximum allowable electricity power and/or daily energy use reaches the allowable quota.

The adaptation of the system design concepts has led CKE to be awarded as the winner of the ASEAN Energy Award 2016 under the Renewable Energy: Best practice off-grid power category as shown in Figure 12.

ASEAN Energy Award

Figure 12. ASEAN Energy Award 2016.

4.0 Conclusion

CKE’s wide involvement in the Rural Area Electrification Project have created experts in the renewable energy system for government projects, specifically Solar PV System Technology. The massive experiences gained by the CKE project team have help ensure the system is designed at the most cost effective and with technically reliable technology.

The project team have faced challenges and risks during the implementation in term of hardship and difficulties of access to the sites due to poor road condition, natural disaster such as landslides and flood especially during the rainy season as shown below;

No matter how hard the obstacle encountered by the team, works were delivered successfully. The commitment and determination shown in delivering the project have made JKR the preferred choice in the field of solar PV system technology.  

cropped-cropped-logo-jab-kerja-raya.pngJASA KEPADA RAKYAT



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