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HomeAfrica FocusSustainability through innovation – bringing affordable power to Africa

Sustainability through innovation – bringing affordable power to Africa

Ener-G-Africa's new solar-panel assembly plant in Cape Town focusses on making smaller solar panels to serve low-income households across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ener-G-Africa is bringing affordable power to Africa

Ener-G-Africa (EGA) is a multi-faceted company that is tackling the challenges of climate change through research, development and the manufacturing of clean energy products, enriching the lives of people across the African continent.

Solar panels for Africa

In February 2023 Sub-Saharan Africa gained its second solar-panel assembly plant when Ener-G-Africa launched its $1.5-million, 800m² plant in Cape Town.

The focus is on making smaller solar panels to serve low-income households across Sub-Saharan Africa. The panels can be used with advanced biomass stoves as well as for charging lights, phones and other small appliances.

The 20W panels sell for $18 each and could be transformative for a micro-business. A farmer needing to know whether it is worth his while to cycle to market with his crop might need to charge his phone, a shopkeeper off the grid can keep track of her stock with a single lamp.

Small solar panels intended for Africa are invariably made at smaller facilities and don’t come with any reputable certifications, which has led to Africa being flooded with inconsistent and inferior panels. This is the first and only small solar panel plant in the world certified by TUV Rheinland.

In addition to domestic South African sales, the panels are distributed to Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. EGA will increase the size of the plant as demand rises.

The plant has a maximum capacity of 15MW per annum, has created 53 jobs and operates 24 hours a day, five days a week. All of the workers at the plant are women. And that is not the only reason the plant is unique.

The focus on small panels also sets it apart. “Small panels are generally more time-consuming and difficult to make than larger panels,” says Plant Manager René Salmon. “As a result, they are more expensive per watt to make than a larger panel. However, high quality and low price are our priorities for a customer base that usually only has access to high-price, low-quality panels,” she adds.

Aluminium for the frames is purchased locally, as well as the wiring, junction boxes, adhesives and packaging. South Africa is the most technologically capable country on the continent with readily available skills that are necessary to run the plant. Being located in Cape Town means EGA also has access to a port, which is a logistical advantage for both raw material imports and finished product exports.

Typically, the major solar-panel manufacturers will produce bigger panels targeted at utility-scale projects and larger business and residential installations. Says Andre Moolman, CEO of EGA: “Small solar panels intended for Africa are invariably made at smaller facilities and don’t come with any reputable certifications, which has led to Africa being flooded with inconsistent and inferior panels. This is the first and only small solar panel plant in the world certified by TUV Rheinland.”

The company

Established in Malawi in 2017, EGA was founded as a solar wholesale company after recognising that the demand for quality sustainable energy products outpaced supplies in the country. In 2018, it added advanced biomass stoves distribution and embarked on its first rural stove implementation programme in partnership with C-Quest Capital (CQC) to serve previously unserviceable markets through carbon-based financing.

Since 2017, EGA has created more than 500 jobs and manufactured more than four-million cleaner, healthier, more efficient cookstoves for rural and peri-urban African households across 12 countries. It has established two manufacturing facilities, doubling its output – one in Lilongwe, Malawi, and the second in Cape Town, South Africa, where the company is now headquartered.

Other products

The company also has offices in Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. EGA’s capabilities include stove components, biomass fuels, advanced biomass stoves, solar panels, metal working and precision tooling.

The company currently manufactures or assembles stove components for TLC-CQC Rocket Stoves, solar panels, jet flame kits and pellet and wood cookstoves. There are also plans for Cape Town to manufacture and sell clean and efficient advanced biomass stoves through an additional manufacturing facility in the near future.

For more information, visit www.ener-g-africa.com

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