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Exclusive interview with Solarworld Africa MD Gregor Küpper. The company installed the largest single rooftop solar installation in Africa at present at the Vodacom head office in Century City in Cape Town – one of the destinations in the Clean Power Africa site visit program. Solarworld Africa is also doing a vendor demonstration on the expo floor.

Gregor Kupper

What makes Solarworld Africa’s products and services competitive in the market?
Besides a competitive pricing strategy for the local market, worldwide we have a good brand reputation for quality and knowledge of the African market. We have 20 years of experience in the African market and our products which are made in our own factories in Germany live up to their promise under these harsh conditions.

Tell us about the Vodacom project in Century City − why is this installation so unique?
Apart from being the largest single rooftop solar installation in Africa at present, the project was a flagship installation for SolarWorld Africa in that the two differently pitched sections of the Vodacom roof provided for use of SolarWorld’s semi-integrated mounting structure, known as the Sundeck as well as the flat roof, non-penetrative mounting structure, known as the Suntub. The pitched section of the roof installed with the sundeck mounting structure is the largest single Sundeck installation for SolarWorld globally and the flat-roof section is the largest installation using the Suntub for SolarWorld in Africa.

Any lessons already learnt from this project?
We brought in a SolarWorld-trained engineer who spent time with our local partners and installers, In-Toto Solutions. He was able to assist the installers by sharing his extensive experience in installing these specialised products and training them over the weeks of the beginning phase of the project. This provided for a transfer of skills to a South African company and its employees and will stand them in good stead for their planned future projects.

Any more exciting projects ahead?
There are many more exciting projects in the pipeline, however, for obvious reasons, we are currently unable to discuss these. These upcoming projects are mostly grid-tied (embedded generation) meaning that the systems are sized in a way that ensures that the electricity produced is used as it is made and not fed into the grid. These planned projects lie mostly within the southern African region.

What opportunities do you see in South Africa?  And in Africa?
In such a competitive environment with cost and pricing being so important, the classic forms of energy are becoming too expensive and we see a gearing towards renewable energy as the cheaper alternative over the long run.

What is your vision for the industry?
We see a future where each and every person has access to clean, affordable, safe and sustainable energy sources and in Africa in particular, to those who have no access to the grid so that they may improve their quality of life and receive access to education.

What will be you message at Clean Power Africa this year?
As with previous campaigns our message is that the consumer whoever they would be, residence owner, business owner or utilities manager should choose the best solar technology now and allow themselves to fix their electricity costs for the next 25 years and more.

Anything you would like to add?
We will be showcasing our latest newly designed panel, the Glass-Glass panel. This will be on display at our booth SO18 and, with some changes to the standard module design, will offer clients a 30 year warrantee and a guaranteed output of 91% after the first 21 years. We are very excited about this new product!