Off-grid solar solutions for farms and lodges in Namibia
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- February 24, 2020 |
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Q&A with Stefan Kleemann from SolarSaver
With Namibia’s abundant sunshine there is huge potential to provide farms, lodges and other businesses with solar power, even in the most remote locations, significantly enhancing the sustainability of farming and tourism operations in these areas and reducing Namibia’s reliance on faltering power producers. SolarSaver manages over 170 installations in Namibia and South Africa – offering both grid-tied and off-grid systems. Considerable investment backing allows the company to offer a unique rent-to-own model, with clients paying only against the performance of the system. With farmers facing major challenges, this at least offers a capex-free, hassle-free way to harness greener, less expensive solar power. Stefan Kleeman of SolarSaver Namibia talks through the essentials.
What are farmers requesting?
Farmers are looking for secure, stable power solutions for the coming years, and they see that off-grid systems can provide these stable solutions.
Does it make sense to go off-grid from a cost perspective?
Where there is access to grid power, NamPower tariffs may not be very high at R 2.00 / R 2.50 per KWH, but monthly charges are very high. For example, for a 50KVA supply, you’re paying up to R10 000 a month for 2000KWH of usage, delivering an effective KWH rate of R 4.00-5.00.
With a similar solar photovoltaic off-grid system, your effective cost from SolarSaver is R3.00-4.00 per KWh, offering a 15% saving. Our structured contracts at set rates, with rates only increasing at CPI, means that farmers and lodge owners know what the operational costs will be in the foreseeable future and can plan accordingly. Farmers can limit the risks of huge cost spikes or load-shedding disrupting operations. Where there is no access to grid power, solar power is cheaper than the cost of diesel power. For example, the off-grid solar PV system with 160 solar panels, batteries, and a back-up generator battery system at Bronkhorst Farm in Hochveld is operating at N$ 25 000 per month, while operating with diesel generators would cost close to double that.
How are the solar installations benefiting remote farms?
Some farm machinery can be electricity-intensive, and that can be a big stumbling block for farmers in remote locations with expensive and/or limited grid power supply. Solar installations enable remote farms to use the machinery they need at a much lower cost than diesel generators. For example, Bronkhorst Farm now uses the off-grid solar system to successfully power the Bos-tot-Kos machinery the farm installed to produce livestock feed from the bush.
What is the average size of off-grid system you install at farms and lodges?
The average size is 50-100KW. In the new year, we will install 75-100KW systems at bigger Lodges.
How much flexibility is there with structuring contracts?
We structure contracts according to the need of the client. For example, we have farmers who have requested a 5-year rental contract at a fixed monthly rate with zero escalation. The monthly cost may be comparatively high, but they’re not financing the system over 10 to 20 years, so effectively financing costs fall away. They also know what they’re in for over five years and can plan accordingly. Also, during those five years, it’s SolarSaver’s responsibility to maintain and adjust the system. The farmer has the tested assurance that it’s correctly designed to last and can supply the power he needs. From SolarSaver’s perspective – this is also a low-risk investment for our investors.
What are the challenges with installing solar systems?
Transporting the complex off-grid systems to remote locations and ensuring they continue to operate most effectively can be a challenge, but we have developed an innovative containerised solution to solve these problems and allow the panels to operate at maximum capacity. Built-in air-conditioning ensures the temperature in the container is kept at 25 degrees for the optimal performance of the equipment.
What are the costs involved in ongoing maintenance?
SolarSaver takes care of all ongoing monitoring and maintenance at no cost, which is an important benefit for clients. It’s in our interests to ensure that the panels are clean and operating at maximum capacity.
SolarSaver provides customised rooftop solar photovoltaic solutions to corporate and industrial customers in Namibia and South Africa through its proprietary zero-capital financing model. Solar Saver uses a rent-to-own contract to allow businesses to save on their monthly electricity bills by allowing them to utilise their unproductive roof and parking spaces to generate renewable solar power without any capital outlay, or the requirement to invest in the expertise to build and operate a solar installation. SolarSaver has completed over 170 installations in South Africa and Namibia, the majority of which are managed in terms of rent-to-own contracts. Installations include systems for shopping centres, service stations, hotels, hospitals and factories. Sedgeley Energy is the technical service provider to Solar Saver and is responsible for the installation, administration and maintenance of the rental portfolio.
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