A new solar PV assembly plant has launched in Cape Town, housed on the premises of an energy company that cut its teeth creating sustainable energy solutions for low-income households.
The R26-million plant can produce some 20 000 solar panels each month and is creating job opportunities for more than 50 women.
According to a report by News24, the plant is located at Ener-G-Africa's headquarters in Ndabeni. Ener-G-Africa has two manufacturing facilities - one in Cape Town and another in Lilongwe, Malawi. It started as a wholesale solar company in Malawi in 2017. Since 2018, it has been producing biomass stoves – a cleaner and healthier option for rural communities in sub-Sahara Africa.
The solar panel assembly plant in Cape Town has been a year in the making and can produce 15 MW of small solar panels per year.
According to CEO André Moolman, the plant required funding of $1,5 million (R26 million) which was made possible through concessional finance from C-Quest Capital, a social impact investment company focusing on projects that provide clean energy and reduce carbon.
Moolman said the advantage of being located in Cape Town is that the operations are close to the port, allowing for the import of solar cells and solar glass and the export of the final product. Its international suppliers are based in Germany and India. The company relies on locally sourced aluminium frames, adhesives and packaging materials, among other things.
There are currently 53 women employed at the plant, led by plant manager René Salmon, who is involved in the training process.
Moolman said that typically solar panel manufacturers produce bigger panels for utility-scale projects, larger businesses or residential installations. Also, small solar panels often do not come with reputable certifications.
Ener-G-Africa saw a gap in the market to provide certified small solar panels for low-income households in the sub-Sahara Africa region.
The final product is a 20 W panel. Each panel is priced at $18 (R306) and are targeted at the domestic market as well as Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.