Large Potential For High Quality PV Systems In Africa

Sharp announced to expand its business in Africa and to collaborate with local distributors in key markets. Barbara Rudek, Business Development Manager, elaborates the strategy. (Part 2 will follow soon).

Why has Sharp decided to expand its business in several African countries?
We see promising business opportunities for solar in Africa for several reasons.The potential for high quality PV systems as from Sharp in Africa is very large, there are few areas on earth that have such consistent and excellent solar Irradiation all year round. Given the pressing need for security of supply and the requirement to increase the access to a stable electricity supply with the ability to rapidly scale up makes PV the ideal solution. As solar is a modular system it allows for both on grid and off grid application in both commercial or rural settings and can be up-scaled to meet the customer growing needs or when finances allow. As fossil fuels become more expensive and with the falling costs of PV and BOS both for a small and utility scale installations will be a key market driver in countries where a regulatory has been put in place.

PV helps African countries to become more independent from hydropower, which is important in many countries due to longer dry seasons. Another advantage, PV can cover the high demand for a reliable electricity supply among all segments: off-grid and on grid, mini-grids, residential, commercial and utility scale plants. Another important aspect are the current grid connection charges in sub-Saharan Africa, which are among the highest in the world relative to income. So High grid-connection charges can make PV systems very attractive even in areas served by the grid. Business wise Africa offers a huge market for Diesel/PV Hybrid systems due to the immense number of diesel generators in use in many African countries. This can help to reduce Diesel costs and become more independent from sometimes unreliable Diesel supply.

How important is quality?
Due to the very unique projects in remoted areas with difficult access installing good quality products performing for years without any problems is extremely important. Brands must offer performance warranty for their products over the years and a broad range of products to satisfy the specific needs of a project. Sharp has the largest module range in the market and aims to have the best warranty in its class to support its growing distribution network on the continent. Sharp has a guaranteed positive power tolerance (0/+5%) and a 25 year’s linear power output guarantee. Beside Sharps customer can be sure to have a company as a partner who can look back on an over 100 years’ history with 60 years’ experience in Solar, a very stable financial background with a proven track record of 13 GW solar and more than 1 million satisfied customers worldwide and of course belonging to the Tier 1 listed companies. This all together is the best pre-condition to successfully serve the sometimes challenging African market. So Sharp is pretty well prepared and will satisfy the needs of our business partners and whose customers in the best sustainable and reliable way.

So you don’t sell B or C class modules to your African partners?
No, we deliver high-standard quality products according to our standard price list. Customers across the African continent will have access to Sharp’s full range of reliable, efficient energy solutions and services suitable for residential, commercial and industrial use. Sharp’s range of best-in-class PV modules covers polycrystalline, monocrystalline and back contact technology with modules ranging from 48, 60 to 72 cells. Sharp’s polycrystalline PV panels are particularly attractive for the African market due to their competitive price-performance ratio. In this segment Sharp can offer three different 60 cells panel types (ND-RK Series, ND-RB Series and ND-RJ Series) in either 270W / 275W or Sharp’s project 72 cells panel with 330W. Our modules are also certified by leading international bodies and subject to a comprehensive Sharp testing procedure which is up to 5 times stricter than required by IEC.

So what are your expectations and sales goals?
A constant growth of partnerships and sales. We take it step by step and focus on a sustainable, reliable and steady growth. Our target groups are local distributors with a good network to the local market. We don’t want to rush and risk any market/business development. We build the markets up step by step. Our core markets for time being are South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, Kenya and Uganda. Our goal is to build up a partnership with one to two local distributors in each of those key markets. (Part 2 will follow soon).

Note: The interview was conducted by Hans-Christoph Neidlein