SolarWorld Africa – 30 years of solar technology in Africa



SolarWorld, one of the world’s leading solar companies, believes that its 30-year history of solar power generation in Africa will give it comparative advantage to scale up renewable energy supply to meet growing market demand for electricity.


While South Africa is leading the African market with its successful Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPP), it is the accumulation of solar power projects outside of the REIPP, residential, commercial, agricultural and infrastructural, where the future of renewable energy generation lies and SolarWorld Africa’s 30-year history is a testament to this.


Gregor Küpper, Managing Director of SolarWorld Africa, addressed solar industry partners at an event at the German South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg recently. Showcasing SolarWorld Africa’s 30-year presence in Africa, the event was held to provide an opportunity for industry experts to discuss and give insight into the African solar power market. The panellists shared their vast knowledge and experience with SolarWorld products over the many years and gave insight into what the future holds for solar power in Africa.


Gregor Küpper said: “Solar power is a potential game-changer for more than 50 percent of Africa’s 1.1billion people who have no access to electricity and may reposition Africa at the forefront of global energy sustainability. This would mean access to medical care technology, clean water, refrigeration to preserve food and digital media for education and greater participation in the information age.”


SolarWorld traces its own history of photovoltaic power generation to Arco Solar opening an office in Nigeria in 1984 when these pioneers first recognised Africa’s ability to harness the sun’s energy 365 days a year due to its high average annual irradiation levels which far exceed America’s or Europe’s levels.


SolarWorld Africa timeline

In 1984 Arco opened its first office in Africa, in Lagos, Nigeria as Arco Solar Nigeria Ltd.

After Arco was taken over by Siemens in 1990, the business was continued by several Siemens offices in Africa, with its headquarters located in Midrand, South Africa.

In 2002 Royal Dutch Shell acquired the solar activities from Siemens and opened an office as Shell Solar in Midrand, South Africa.

Subsequently, in 2006, Shell Solar’s crystalline solar activities were taken over by SolarWorld AG globally, the office of SolarWorld Africa located in Midrand, South Africa.

In 2008 the offices of SolarWorld Africa were moved to Cape Town, South Africa.

Today, SolarWorld Africa is responsible for more than 40 countries in Southern, Western, Central and Eastern Africa.


Year Milestones of African activities
1984 First office in Nigeria under Arco Solar brand
1990 Siemens takes over Arco Solar
2002 Royal Dutch Shell acquires Siemens Solar, establishing Shell Solar
2006 SolarWorld completes the takeover of Shell’s solar crystalline activities and opens first office in Johannesburg, founding SolarWorld Africa
2008 SolarWorld Africa office moves to Cape Town


Selected systems discussed by panellists

It is based on this recorded history that SolarWorld pioneered solar projects in Africa over the last 30 years. Highlights include:


1986, Namibia: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Solar Age Namibia installed a solar electricity system of 21 Arco Solar solar modules on the farm “Erichsfelde” in Central Namibia

1992, Namibia: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Solar Age Namibia installed M55 Siemens solar modules at the “Huab Lodge” in Damaraland, North-West Namibia

1996, Namibia: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Solar Age Namibia installed one M55 Siemens solar module on a rural home in the Caprivi Strip in North-East Namibia

1998, South Africa: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Telecom Techniques installed their first installation of Siemens solar modules in the Eastern Cape in South Africa

1999, Namibia: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Solar Age Namibia installed Siemens solar modules near the “Spitzkoppe” in Namibia

2004, Namibia: SolarWorld Africa’s partner Solar Age Namibia installed Shell solar modules at the “Gobabeb Desert Research Station” in the Gobabe Desert in Namibia


Testament to SolarWorld’s claim of quality, reliability and longevity, some of these recorded projects have been in operation for up to 30 years. They are continuously performing well, even in some of the harshest conditions in Africa.


Gregor Küpper added: “Together with our partners, we are proud that with 30 years we have the longest track record of solar electricity projects on the African continent. Globally, we are the only manufacturer who is in the market longer than the warranties we offer on our solar systems. We thank our partners for their continued support, as their commitment to our product is the best proof of our unique and long-term quality offering. We look forward to many more successful and sustainable solar projects together.”


Powering all sectors of the South African economy

Gregor Küpper stipulated: “Today, solar power is already driving almost every sector of South Africa’s economy. Over the last 30 years, SolarWorld Africa has undertaken a number of strategic, large scale projects. These include:

In agriculture, the Dube Tradeport IDZ in Durban, the Cape Span and Rooibos Ltd. plants in the Western Cape where solar electricity is used to provide renewable energy for the production of agricultural food supply

In ICT services, the Vodacom Head Office in Century City where solar electricity is providing energy for this leading mobile service provider’s business services

In healthcare, solar electricity is being used at Mitchells Plain Hospital and Khayelitsha Hospital

In manufacturing, SolarWorld has helped Puma sportswear manufacturer, Imphala Clothing, lead the global brand’s sustainability drive with a solar-powered factory

In education, the German International School in Cape Town has installed solar power as a back-up to energy requirements for students

In tourism and hospitality, rural lodges and camps are being powered by solar electricity

African innovation

Gregor Küpper added: “SolarWorld’s commitment to sustainability and social innovation is also playing a lead role in local market innovation.”

This year, SolarWorld Africa sponsored the solar-powered mobile office for the 2014 SASOL Solar Challenge which was won by the Dutch team while the University of Kwazulu Natal was the leading local team.

SolarWorld Africa also designed and supplied solar powered television sets, so-called Sun-TVs, to enable 37 rural communities across Southern Africa to enjoy the FIFA Soccer World Cup games in 2010 and 2014.

In another ‘world-first’, it installed the first solar-powered toll-gate in Zimbabwe and sponsored a solar powered ‘green classroom’ at Intaka Island eco-sanctuary in Century City.

A new phase dawning

Gregor Küpper concluded: “With expected policy reforms into netmetering or feed-in tariffs for solar electricity, growing investment into renewable energy and research projects by academic institutions, a new phase is dawning. Africa is set to develop on par with the rest of the world in terms of solar technology and the market is growing. Through its 30-year history in this market, SolarWorld is at the forefront of this bright and sustainable future.”

More information at

Source: SolarWorld

Green Energy

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