Photovoltaics gaining popularity in Africa

There is an increasing trend towards photovoltaics in Africa resulting from sinking costs, an increasing energy demand, rising conventional electricity prices and high levels of solar radiation. Microgrids, large rooftop systems and solar parks are being increasingly installed alongside solar home systems and solar water pumps.

Large international energy companies in particular are intensively investing in microgrids (stand-alone grids) in Africa’s grid-remote areas to provide not only individual households but also entire rural communities with the solar power they need, for example in Tanzania. According to prognoses from Bloomberg NEF, 32 million households in remote regions around the world will be connected to a stand-alone grid by 2030, many of which will be in Africa. And solar-powered stand-alone grids are also becoming more popular in cities. These grids can be used for emergency back-up power or even connected to the grid as needed. One such PV system has been installed on the roof of the headquarters of an international energy and solar company in Johannesburg, generating 756 kilowatts (kW).

Supplementing or modifying diesel aggregators and power plants used in mines to accommodate PV and battery storage systems in countries like Zambia has also become a trend. Commercial rooftop installations are also on the rise, as exemplified by the 1.6-megawatt (MW) PV installation on the roof of the Maerua Mall in Windhoek, Namibia, which meets the majority of its electricity demand. Recently, several African countries have constructed an increasing number of large solar parks in the double-digit megawatt range, including in South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal. In Mali, construction is currently underway on a 50-MW free-standing installation – the largest in Western Africa. A 28-year supply contract (power purchase agreement) provides for the purchase of the solar power generated from this installation by the utility company Electricité du Mali.

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Photovoltaics gaining popularity in Africa