Solar Show Africa 2016 opens with promise across wide range of PV markets

This year’s Solar Show Africa is part of the 19th Annual Power & Electricity World Africa 2016, with other parts of the overall exhibition devoted to lighting, energy efficiency, water treatment, clean technologies, power generation, transmission and distribution and other aspects of the electricity market.

While much attention has focused on utility-scale projects regulated by the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), there was plenty of talk at the show on commercial and industrial installations and residential deployments.

At the Canadian Solar booth, Johannesburg-based Senior Sales Manager Zaheer Khan mentioned Canadian Solar’s recent involvement in selling 5 MW of PV modules to a rooftop project located not far from The Solar Show Africa venue in Sandton, in the city’s Gaoteng Province. The power generated from this system, one of the largest C & I installations in South Africa so far, will be utilized by a large shopping mall. Khan predicts 150 to 200 MW of C & I installations in the country this year, with the REIPPPP market still grabbing the largest market share with 400 to 500 MW in 2016.

The cost of solar PV has become competitive in South Africa, with REIPPPP power purchase agreements (PPAs) now in the neighborhood of only 0.80 South African Rand per kWh (about $0.05/kWh). On the C & I side Darren McWade, Sales Director at PV developer dako power points to system installation costs at 17 to 18 South African Rand per Watt, which equates to $1.10 per Watt.

McWade sees considerable interest in storage, especially on the residential side, where dako power is one of the country’s market leaders. dako power is teaming up with Tesla to bring its Powerwall to South African homes. Another Tesla Powerwall reseller is SegenSolar, which last month kicked-off its business in South Africa and already has experience in selling PV solutions in combination with Tesla’s Powerwall in its home market, the U.K. In both English-speaking markets demand for storage solutions is strong, according to the SegenSolar representative pv magazine spoke to at their booth.

South Africa’s embrace of various PV applications, from off-grid to residential, C & I, and utility-scale, will also have its impact on neighboring countries and those farther afield in this vast continent.

The Solar Show Africa’s organizers have managed to bring in visitors and experts from various African markets and we can expect South Africa to play a pivotal role in developing business models and financing solutions for PV projects in other parts of Africa, be they small off-grid electrification projects or centralized power plants providing a clean alternative to conventional power plants based on fossil fuels.