Friday Dec 09, 2022

Follow the data to make informed solar power decisions – ESI Africa


Some interesting figures for global solar power capacity have made headline news recently. Sadly, while Africa has significant irradiance data, the region’s growth in solar capacity is not reflective of this potential. And the story the data presents is only one side of the coin to understanding why.  

Before unpacking this, note that funding and investment data into Africa’s renewable energy market show an increase over the last two decades. This, however, is dampened by the reality that it remains relatively low, especially when compared to other regions. Moreover, recent efforts to correct the imbalance were impeded by the global pandemic and conflict in Ukraine – with funding diverted to world health and the global north’s fuel challenges.  

This lack of funding has not entirely hampered Africa’s solar power market, just changed the profile. To elaborate, developers looking at the Global Solar Atlas from the World Bank will find Africa has the best solar potential in the world. This capacity, along with attractive pricing analysed by Statista, reveals a sturdy market for solar development. According to Statista, when combining the average long-term practical yield of a utility-scale solar energy installation in each country, long-term output exceeding 4.5kWh/kWp per day is described as “excellent conditions for solar power”. 

Attention solar power market leaders:
Find your niche in Africa

But the solar power data of genuine interest to developers is that Africa’s 4.51 kWh/kWp per day is ahead of second-placed Central and South America’s 4.48, while North America is further behind on 4.37. While the above refers to the continent’s potential, the actual solar capacity for Africa is growing. Furthermore, despite policies that hamper growth and even though not growing at the same rate as the rest of the world, comparing African countries to each other shows positive activity in solar capacity growth. 

Wait, how so? Well, what we have here is a situation where Africa’s solar power capacity is growing thanks to off-grid and minigrid project development. This gain includes an extremely proactive C&I market investing in own generation through solar solutions. Among the countries seeing this push is Ghana.  

In ESI Africa Issue 2 last year, Daystar Power shared its insights into this West African country. The company noted an increasing number of Ghanaian businesses switching to solar to power their operations. Given its modular nature, there is no limit other than available space to how much electricity solar can generate for a specific business’s energy needs – whether a large manufacturing concern or smaller business offering services, explains Daystar Power.

In Ghana, a steel recycling company located in the Tema Free Trade Zone, Rider Steel, installed a 1.1MWp solar system, which powers nearly a fifth of their energy consumption on one of their lines. The system consists of 2,844 x 380W solar panels. Rider Steel will save significantly on power costs over the 25-year life of the system. By using solar, the company will offset 650MT of carbon emissions each year. Although Rider Steel’s solar installation is a small contribution to its overall power consumption, it can easily be scaled to power a larger load. 

This type of growth in solar capacity is terrific considering that most African countries are not suited to utility-scale solar plants because their grids can’t absorb the quantities, not because there isn’t demand. 

The solar power data tells us that utility-scale solar is the way to go, but …….


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