South Africa set for more local PV manufacturing

Compared to some of the larger solar trade shows on the PV circuit, South Africa’s Power & Electricity World was relatively small, attracting approximately 100 exhibitors and some 3,000 visitors, according to the organizers.

But qualified interest of those visitors was high and networking possibilities over the show’s two-day duration proved great, as pv magazine discovered.

Due to growing demand and the strategic importance of the South African solar market for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, a lot of international tier 1 companies exhibited at the show.

Jinko Solar’s Businesss Development Manager South Africa, Wido Schnabel, reported that the company has so far sold more than 300 MW of modules in bidding projects in the country. Their new 120 MW local module production facility will begin operations in May, Schnabel said.

JA Solar will commence local module production in cooperation with mounting systems provider Powerway in August, said Xu Tian, managing director of JA Powerway South Africa. The facility will be located in the COEGA Industrial development Zone near Port Elizabeth, where big car manufacturers like Volkswagen, General Motors and Chinese FAW produce their goods. According to Tian, JA has already signed contracts with COEGA to provide 18 MW of its locally produced panels for commercial rooftop applications to those car manufacturing facilities, taking advantage of recently introduced tax incentives for self consumption of electricity, Tian said.

SolarWorld has also secured for itself a strong foothold in commercial rooftop applications in South Africa, Managing Director Gregor Küpper said. For the continued growth of residential applications, the MD hopes the introduction of a net metering or Feed-in-Tariff scheme will give the municipalities – which financially depend on the sales of electricity – some kind of financial compensation. SolarWorld Africa will not currently countenance local production due to the rather limited domestic market volume in the country, Küpper revealed.

However, inverter manufacturers like SMA and ABB are banking on the growing importance of domestic content for round 4 of the bidding process for larger scale applications, and are building up manufacturing facilities for central inverters.

ABB plans to produce up to 500 MW of central inverters per year locally with a domestic content share of up to 65%, Jyrki Leppänen, Director Market Management Solar Inverters told pv magazine. The actual ramping up schedule would rely on the results of the coming biddings for large scale applications though, he added, with minimum production utilization at around 100 MW per year.