off-grid power

Traditional large-scale power plants and long-distance transmission and distribution networks have proved ineffectual in reaching rural communities. The search is now on for a clean, secure, modular, and mobile off-grid power solution to fill the energy void.

Sustainable Power Generation, a Cape Town-based company, has identified decentralised power generation technology and innovative business models as the answer to scaling up energy access.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 3-2019.
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The company provides energy solutions in rugged, secure containerised systems, which are already making inroads into the energy access crisis. Tobias Hobbach, CEO of Sustainable Power Generation, says: “We know that most of the challenges surrounding rural and off-grid power solutions are around infrastructure, security, weather challenges, and a need for mobility and modularity. That is why our world-class solar power components and batteries are housed within a sturdy Africaproof container. Containerisation of the complete system allows for quick and easy delivery, and simple installation. The container arrives read-to-use. It also means it can be efficiently packed, locked up, and moved if necessary, with very little hassle.”

To provide the innovative solutions needed in this versatile, developing world solar market, Sustainable Power Generation launched a new division called ‘SustainSolar’. “It has become apparent that one of the setbacks created by traditional solar PV systems is the slow installation and activation process,” says Hobbach. “This led us to develop new approaches regarding the design, manufacturing and installation of our systems. We found the containerised concept to be a perfect solution for these challenges. Our Rapid Deployment solar product line allows for speedy activation upon delivery.”

To ensure the best quality, the company sought out the best technology partners and suppliers who would consistently provide excellent engineering, robust solutions, and quality workmanship. One such partner is marketleading, Swiss-based PWRstation. “Their EXOrac scalable racking system has made it possible for us to launch our ultra-rapid deployment solution, Sustain Flex,” explains Hobbach.

Sustain Flex and EXOrac for ultrarapid off-grid deployment

Combined with PWRstation’s revolutionary extractable EXOrac system, SustainSolar can quickly and easily provide rural and off-grid applications with a safe, secure, and resilient solution that is flexible, modular, scalable and deployable within minutes.

PWRstation developed the industrialclass retractable racking system with unique design features, which not only enable fast and easy solar asset installation and redeployment, but are also perfectly suited for containerisation. Malcolm Truman, PWRstation’s business development manager, says: “We are delighted to welcome Sustainable Power Generation on board as our new African distribution partner. Our EXOrac solution is a perfect fit for their SustainSolar Rapid Deployment solar containers and the remote and rural off-grid markets they are intending to target with this solution. We are looking forward to collaborating with the SustainSolar team in Cape Town and getting projects off the ground.”

Hobbach adds: “The Swiss EXOrac that PWRstation brings to the SustainSolar offering is a perfect alignment of our values and our positioning – exceptional African-strength design, backed with Swiss-precision components that are innovative and robust. SustainSolar’s containerised power solutions are ideal for mini-grids and off-grid, permanent or temporary applications – such as rural communities, lodges, government and humanitarian applications, clinics, schools, disaster relief and so on. We’re excited to bring this built-to-last, safe, versatile solar solution to Africa.”

The launch of Sustain Flex and the introduction of EXOrac in South Africa took place at this year’s African Utility Week in Cape Town. “The containerised, flexible rapid deployment solution, and the expanded racking system, drew a lot of attention to our stand from local and international attendees,” says Hobbach.

Whether large or small, your needs are covered

Another answer to the need for fast activation is Sustain Compact, where all the solar modules, structures, batteries, and electronics for off-grid and hybrid operation are pre-installed and packed inside a 20ft ISO shipping container for safe and easy transport.

The solar PV size options range from 17kWp, 24kWp and 36kWp, and up to 100kWh battery storage can be included. The company is currently building one of these systems for a mini-grid in rural Malawi.

For larger mini-grid or hybrid systems, SustainSolar offers the Sustain Extended model, where all equipment is shipped in one or more 20 or 40ft shipping containers. The solar PV sizes vary between 40kWp and 80kWp, and up to 200kWh battery storage can be included.

Solar hybrid project in South Sudan

Off-grid power solutions are a necessity across Africa, and diesel generators are often the de facto, so the need exists to offer hybrid solutions whenever possible.

A leading radio station in South Sudan’s capital Juba, a city with poor grid connectivity, relied solely on diesel generators for its power. SustainSolar designed, built, and installed an off-grid solar-battery-hybrid power system to replace the diesel generators as their primary power source.

Using world-class components, the solar PV solution, housed in the turnkey pre-installed 20ft container, provides a 79kWp ground mounted system with 125kWh lithium-ion battery storage.

Secure, insulated, mobile, weathertight, dustproof, and temperature controlled, this solar solution provided an instant diesel consumption saving of more than 71% for the radio station.

SustainSolar’s multi-purpose solar containers

SustainSolar’s multi-purpose solutions are custom-designed and built-topurpose, with a large compartment to house applications that supply essential services. These containerised, tough, easy-to-ship units are ideally suited to rural clinics, temporary workshops, and disaster relief.

Depending on the application and the power demand, the solar panel array can produce between 17 and 35kWp per 20ft container. Batteries can be fitted to allow power storage.

With the pressing demand for reliable access to power in Africa, it is good to know that locally engineered power solutions are continuing to innovate and produce hard-wearing, secure alternatives to diesel generators. ESI

About the company

Sustainable Power Generation produces containerised, high-quality, durable solutions designed and manufactured in South Africa, with world-class components. Backed by Africa-proof South African design, engineering, assembly, fabrication, and commissioning, we only use trusted, worldclass suppliers with technical support and product warranty. The company offers gas-to-power, solar power, and clean energy solutions. |