Providing electrification to all communities can be achieved through access to clean energy that is also reliable and affordable, such as with solar home systems. To track the solar market ESI Africa spoke with Gulnara Abdullina, JinkoSolar’s General Manager for Africa and Middle East.
At a community level, spurred by government-supported rural electrification agencies, the arrival of mini- and micro-grids has improved access to electricity in Africa. It is a drop in the ocean and there is a lot to accomplish but this is a great start, remarks Gulnara.
Gulnara, what is the attraction of doing business in Africa?
There will always be a demand for stable and affordable electricity in Africa. Not all the enablers are in place; however, we see governments coming to the party and the utility market becoming more liberal, which in turn is increasing investment in solar and wind too. JinkoSolar is a pioneer when it comes to emerging economies whether they are in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. It is important to be there first and to contribute to the development of the solar industry, which has a long-lasting positive effect on and benefit for the local population.
What technological innovations have particularly changed your industry?
The most notable trend is in module efficiency. In 2013, the industry saw modules of 330W for two square metres. Now the same dimension can harvest 410W. Another influencing factor is cost reduction. Costs have come down over 80% in the past 10 years, which makes it more affordable and this is why solar in Africa is on the rise. An exciting trend is in the emergence of bifacial modules, where harvesting solar from both sides of the panel is made possible. The value of these trends is lower capital expenditure on the overall plant as it can be more compact. There is also less spent on operation and maintenance, which falls into lower capital expenditure, which translates into lower cost of electricity.
Which product from your portfolio has the most potential for the African market?
Africa is different, it has a different climate but we can always pick a product from our portfolio that offers the correct components fit for climatic challenges. We use Tedlar backsheet almost exclusively, supported by our partner, DuPont. This means the product will last for over 25 years, making it one of the most reliable backsheets. Plants located in coastal areas will require additional certifications to be fortified to withstand corrosion. If the plant is close to an airport, an anti-glare glass will be needed. For dessert locations, I recommend using bifacials as the reflection from the sand increases the yield – this makes economic sense even though these panels cost more.
Let me stress that we do not advocate for one specific product as we work with clients to establish which product makes the most economical and technological sense for their project.
Gulnara, let’s talk about your outlook for the solar market
I believe Africa, which currently holds around 1-1.5% of the global market, has the potential to contribute as much as 5% by 2030. It takes government commitment but we can see that growing. Within five years, we should get to the point where we will see a steady 5GW+ newly built solar capacity annually.
Recently we launched Tiger, our new product joining the Cheetah and Swan modules, which will be available commercially in early 2020. The Tiger module comes in monofacial and bifacial, using half-cut and tiling ribbon technology in order to achieve 460W per panel. The Tiger will gain some traction in Africa as it is suitable to maximise on plant size with the best power density; that’s what our new Tiger technology is offering.
At JinkoSolar we are here to stay: we are invested in Africa! I’m proud to say the company has the most localised footprint in Africa when it comes to our team. Clients trust us and we speak the same language. We remain committed to facilitate knowledge sharing by connecting clients in different geographies to exchange experiences and best practices; to learn and implement the knowledge in their unique environments. ESI
Visit Jinko Solar here: www.jinkosolar.com