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Solar PV and Battery Storage Systems: Driving Africa's Economic Growth

Published: 19 July 2023

Africa needs sustained economic growth, which can only be achieved with the right infrastructure. Given the energy crisis the continent is facing including load shedding in the South, and the pressure to move from fossil fuels to green energy, such infrastructure must include reliable, sustainable, and affordable power. One solution that ticks all three boxes is solar photovoltaic (PV) energy generation and battery storage.

SPS's solar PV plant installation on Farquah Island in the Seychelles
SPS's installation on Farquah Island, Seychelles

The Evolution of Solar PV and Battery Storage

Solar PV systems and storage options have evolved significantly over the years. Today PV modules are manufactured at the lowest prices while maintaining high levels of reliability. The cost of storage batteries has a downward trend, and these systems are being used in several types of constellations for varying applications.

These systems can be used in grid-tied or off-grid applications, or in parallel with existing diesel generators in weak grid conditions to reduce diesel consumption. In the latter case, as well as at inaccessible, remote sites, solar PV and storage systems play a critical role in reducing the costs – and challenging logistics – associated with transporting and storing of diesel fuel.

To determine the configuration of components needed within a single system, simulations around the client’s consumption profile must first be undertaken. Considerations for energy efficiency, load shifting (deferring), and load growth result in a new consumption profile. A solar PV and battery storage solution is then designed to minimize the overall cost of the system including the diesel power generation (Lowest Levelised Cost of Energy). This should be entirely tailored to the client’s geographical location, which impacts solar yield, and their specific energy needs i.e., an office park versus a heavy industry manufacturer.

How Can This Renewable Technology Be Applied?

Generally in most parts of Africa, the primary objective for adopting energy and battery storage systems is to create the most financially viable mix of energy sources to keep the power on and costs down.

Based on the consumption profiles of a site, the lowest cost-of-energy point (a mixture of the existing diesel plus solar PV and battery storage) can be based on as much as 90% renewable energy fraction. That means, around 90% of the energy delivered to the load can originate from renewable energy sources. Anything greater than that typically increases the cost of energy rather than decreasing it as the utilization factor of the solar power reduces with increased solar PV plant size.

SPS‘s experienced team finances, designs, installs, and operates specialized solar systems for clients across Africa, and also has extensive experience with clients’ operations located in remote areas. These include five-star lodges in the heart of the Maasai Mara and resorts on remote locations in the Seychelles such as Desroches Island that depend on reliable, but also quiet power generated from renewable resources.

For these clients, the typical solution is an off-grid system that utilizes solar energy and battery storage during the day and a large portion of the night, while diesel generators provide power during the high-demand season, creating diesel cost savings for clients but also sufficient ‘quiet time’ for guests.

There are a multitude of ways to apply solar energy and battery storage technology to address site-specific needs. It does require a professionally engineered solution, allowing the flexibility of these systems to optimize operational costs and secure reasonable return on investment over the lifespan of such systems.

In conclusion, the integration of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy generation and battery storage systems holds great promise for driving Africa’s economic growth. These advanced technologies provide dependable, sustainable, and affordable power solutions that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of various locations and industries. By embracing this technology, Africa can unlock its economic potential while addressing the energy crisis and promoting a sustainable future.