The local manufacturing and installation of solar photo-voltaic units could create more than 2000 jobs over the next three to five years, according to Western Cape MEC for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture Alan Winde. While the boom in solar power is positive from a job creation perspective, the increasing need for both businesses and residential energy users to have access to alternative energy solutions has resulted in a growth in unqualified solar power companies.

This is according to Manie de Waal, Divisional Head of Solar & Storage at Energy Partners - a leading energy solutions provider in South Africa - who says the solar industry is booming as a result of the national energy crises. “In addition, the potential 25% tariff increase proposed by Eskom will further fuel the growth of the industry.”

De Waal warns that with this rapid expansion there are many operators emerging that may not have the experience and capabilities to deliver the right solution for a client’s specific needs. “Residential and commercial property owners must partner with a reliable service provider who can manage the generation and storage of solar electricity effectively and efficiently.”
He says that the first and most important step is to select the right PV solution for the specific site and lists the following basic solutions:

• Firstly there is the grid-tied PV solution without battery storage. This solution ties into the power grid and feeds the load with the solar power that is generated. While this solution is likely to decrease utility costs, it is not suitable for uninterrupted power supply (UPS) as the solar system is completely dependent on the grid to transport energy.

• Secondly there is a grid-tied solution with battery storage. This solution is also tied into the grid when it is available, but excess solar power can be stockpiled and utilised when required, for example in the event of a power outage.

• The last, an off-grid PV solution, has no connection to the grid and acts as the main source of electricity, often assisted by diesel generation in the event of prolonged periods without sunshine.

De Waal explains that the nature of renewable energy is irregular as it depends heavily on external sources. “If combined with storage however, alternative energy solutions such as solar power can drastically minimise the reliance on grid electricity for companies and households.”

In order to reap the full benefits of a solar power solution, it is imperative that the company or resident uses the services of a tried and trusted energy solutions partner to avoid financial loss in the long run, concludes de Waal.