Niger gets its first solar container

German renewable energy start-up, Africa GreenTec has announced the commissioning of its first solar container in the Tahoua region of Niger. The container consists of a mobile 41 kW PV installation and 60 kW of battery storage, which can provide off grid power to the residents of the town of Amaloud Nomade.

In addition to challenging conditions on the ground, which hindered the delivery and installation of the 40-foot solar container, Africa GreenTec also had to contend with scorching daytime temperatures, which can reach upwards of 45°C, said  founder and CEO, Torsten Schreiber.

The container features solar modules mounted on wings, which can extend out to 150 meters. The advantage of the container system is that all valuable components are mobile and can be quickly secured, from bad weather, vandalism or theft. Schreiber believes this mobility is central in convincing investors to join the project.

Both private investors and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) financially supported the project, which was part of a program to promote climate partnerships with the private sector. The program, led by the German Government, aims to mitigate the causes of refugee flight to Europe. “Rather than just discussing the causes of flight, our joint investment in Niger effectively combats them,” said Schreiber. Ninety percent of African refugee routes are said to pass through the country.

The completion of the project means residents of Amaloul Nomade can move their business and educational activities to the evening, when temperatures are cooler. “Social life no longer ends when the sun sets at 6:00pm. Instead the village now comes alive under the glow of electric lights. Residents use the electricity for radios, televisions and fans. Children go to school in the evenings, and tradesmen, hairdressers and café owners improve their businesses with electric devices. Moreover, village residents have access to satellite-supported internet for the first time,” read a statement from the company.

In 2016, Africa Green Tec received the pv magazine Deutschland Top Business Model award (link in German) for its goal of becoming the first decentralized supplier of mobile PV + storage power plants in Africa, which also prompt regional development.

Niger is currently supporting off-grid PV through the Niger Solar Electricity Access Project (NESPA), an initiative aimed at bringing solar power to rural communities. According to the World Bank, electricity access in Niger is below 1% in rural areas, while in urban areas its rate ranges between 20% and 40% in smaller cities and reaches approximately 50% in Niamey, the capital city. In 2016, the country’s peak demand reached only 260 MW, although its population was estimated at 20.7 million.