Digitalisation to serve the growth of the solar industry in Africa
10 Aug 2022

The crypto industry has been growing exponentially over the past years which has aroused the curiosity of several companies on how it could be applied in different sectors and especially the solar one. Over the past few months, a pilot project led by SustainSolar and Earth Wind and Power has been conducted to improve energy efficiency by converting excess energy from SustainSolar’s off-grid solar installations into green computing power.

A letter of intent was signed in September 2021 between the above mentioned companies as announced by SustainSolar in its latest press release. It is going to be an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that crypto currency mining can be both sustainable and profitable for mini-grids across the continent.

The team that set out to prove the sustainability of bitcoin mining with extra renewable energy in mini-grids, then welcomed INENSUS GmbH (a German consulting and engineering firm with expertise in mini-grids and decentralized renewable energy systems). The goal of the pilot is to demonstrate that Bitcoin mining on underutilized renewable energy sources in rural Africa may boost profits for mini-grid and off-grid C&I solar operators all over the continent.

Those examples show that automation through a digital system has continuously proven to allow for more flexibility in supporting players of any sector that we can possibly think of. The solar industry has not been independent from this evolution as more and more digital solutions are specifically being designed for the sector. Digital technology has been an important part of the different activities being carried out at each stage of a solar project from conception to implementation, from financial structuration to monitoring and maintenance and hence scaling up energy access. Being able to monitor a project on a single platform or anticipate a challenge generally benefit the entire value chain.

Companies like AMMP, OpenSolar, UL and EcoPhi to name a few, are providing digital solutions for energy service companies in emerging markets. They are developing platforms for managing portfolios of hybrid and renewable energy systems, designing solar systems, and doing remote monitoring. As a result, system outages have been greatly reduced, maintenance can now be better planned, accurate information about system performance can be obtained, and revenue has increased.

Digital services are not only for the gigantic companies in terms of providing or receiving services. Companies deploying SHS solutions are not left behind and systems are being designed to respond to their specific needs. A catalogue belonging to the Global Distributors Collective (a collection of last mile distributors worldwide) illustrates the different functionalities of digital services categorized into business, customer and team facing. This includes market research, financial accounting, payment collections, marketing and comms, remote training and much more.

The solar industry has a lot to gain from digitalization, just like any other sector. Energy businesses can now develop smart grids, appropriately manage energy generation, distribution, consumption and cut down on unused energy thanks to emerging technologies: internet of things, cloud computing, data analytics etc. Technology’s ability to affect change in the solar industry is now beyond dispute. The various capabilities described in this article are just a sample of those currently in use; there are many more. They enable us to predict the potential effects of digitalization on the solar business, including more deployment and a higher maximum return on investment.

With all this being said, AFSIA is organizing a webinar around the digital solutions in the solar space with focus on Africa. Join us on the 18th August, 2022 and learn from the experts. Register here.