Solar Power in Africa

Africa is sometimes referred to as the sun continent, warmed by more hours of bright sunshine than anywhere else on earth. Yet, despite its obvious potential, the penetration of solar power on the continent is low: The World Bank estimates that Africa’s installed solar energy capacity is half that of the UK.
Solar energy providers in Africa are beginning to see a boom in demand and have climbed the ranks of the FT’s Fastest-Growing Companies list. These companies are drawing customers who are increasingly looking for alternatives to fossil fuels.
The draw of solar power is its low cost and flexibility. Compared with other renewable forms of energy, solar panels are relatively cheap and can be installed just about anywhere in the world. Because of this, the private sector has invested heavily in solar power rather than hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind power.
In 2011, four entrepreneurs in Cairo dreamed up a solar-powered solution to help farmers in the Bahariya Oasis — unconnected to the central grid — power water pumps instead of using diesel generators. The company signed a contract with an agricultural developer Friday, constructed 33 wells for its farmland, and began educating clients about solar power.
When KarmSolar began installing solar panels, it was a new concept for most Egyptians. “In the beginning, trust was very low for solar, not a lot of clients could wrap their head around it,” says Sami Awa, e-mobility manager at KarmSolar. But by 2015, the company saw that there were opportunities in solar beyond water pumps. It began targeting off-grid regions using a power purchase agreement (PPA) model, under which clients would pay back the infrastructure costs over 30 years as part of their electricity tariff. Its first such contract was with Juhayna, a large dairy business, for an 11-megawatt farm powered by a 1-megawatt solar station serving more than 10,000 acres of land.
In 2019, French multinational EDF Renewables became the largest shareholder of KarmSolar. The company has branched out into water desalination, construction management, and architecture.
Following the falling costs of solar technology in recent years, a new generation of solar startups is emerging. One such company is GridX Africa, which was launched in 2016 and provides off-grid solar power to safari lodges, property developments, and farms across Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
Chalker Kansteiner, the co-founder of Renewable Energy Africa, says that the continent provides ample opportunity for innovation. Many African countries do not have fully established, centralized grid networks, he notes, so utilities and power infrastructure developers do not face a firmly entrenched status quo when introducing renewables.
Taking a bet on renewables after a quarter-century in mining, Tony Carr launched Starsight Energy in Nigeria with an equity investment from Helios Investment Partners and Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers. The company targeted banks and persuaded them to switch from diesel generators to solar power.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.