HomeRegional NewsAfricaSolar power, in clear view

Solar power, in clear view

When the sun doesn’t shine, there is no solar power. That’s not strictly true, but if you’re talking about powering a large industrialised city, it could prove challenging.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 23/09/2020

Most cities aiming for a 100% renewable energy mix will make use of a backup system and battery storage technology. They may even elect to import thermal energy from across their borders.

These cities are applauded for tackling the complexities of having a reliable, affordable and completely clean energy mix that is available when needed – and in so doing, are a motivator for the solar industry to up the game.

The industry should explore the African market to test the mettle of products. The continent’s solar irradiance has been recorded as having some of the highest in the world.

However, while this market has a specific need—in that off-grid is the main area for development—there are cities, commercial and industrial businesses, and mining companies that are hungry for sustainable solar power solutions.

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Solar power industry news

Looking to the African market, a clear view of solar-related milestones that can be seen. Such as the 67.9MW Bokamoso Solar development in the North West province of South Africa.

Here 236,580 solar photovoltaic panels are harnessing the intense North West sun. The solar plant has begun generating 177,660MWh of clean electricity, which is enough to satisfy the needs of around 30,000 average South African households.

Also in South Africa, a 50MW concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) parabolic trough power plant with 9.3-hour storage set a new winter production record in August 2020.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange has commissioned its solar power plant with a generation capacity of up to 40kVA. The country’s regulator has also granted a generation licence to a local consortium to develop a 90MW solar plant.

It’s not just about power, though. In Kenya, a non-profit organisation has deployed a seawater desalination system powered entirely by solar energy and battery storage. The system is capable of providing 70,000 litres of potable water every day!

There is a clear correlation between solar power systems (no matter how small) and productive use of energy transforming lives.

Solar-powered electricity can pump water to irrigate farmland, be used for cold storage facilities, and allow people to charge mobile phones or even an e-vehicle (bike or small taxi) for delivery services – the possibilities of redefining whole communities are what makes solar in Africa so exciting.

Unless I’m proved wrong, the latest achievements in this market are likely to dominate the 2021 African Power and Energy Elites nominations. As a judge on this publication’s panel, I look forward to reviewing the projects in the renewable energy category, as well as the other categories.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.