Solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment is a relatively new market in Africa and has been dominated by ground installations. But over the next 5 years rooftop installations are expected to grow rapidly to over 35% of market installations, especially in South Africa.
This is according to Stephan Padlewski, regional marketing manager, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, in a studio interview at African Utility Week 2015.
“In terms of the levelized cost of energy, PV is now competitive in most locations and it is starting to become competitive in South Africa,” Padlewski says.
PV feed-in tariff and net metering stimulate market
Given that cost competitiveness is the key challenge for any energy source, Padlewski says that to jumpstart the rooftop PV market there should be a feed-in tariff, although this shouldn’t be retained in the long-term. As most installations will be grid connected, a net metering programme is also important to accelerate adoption.
“These have been demonstrated in Europe to stimulate the market and bring flexibility to investors and offtakers, and we think these will be needed in South Africa.”
PV technology challenges
Padlewski says the beauty of PV is that it is scalable from small residential applications up to large commercial buildings. However, he cautions key considerations are the orientation of the building and especially in the case of older buildings, the building structure.
“One needs to look for solutions that are compatible with the building structure,” he says.
Given that a PV installation can be expected to be in operation for up to 30 years, quality is a key technology driver for systems. High quality components are required that can endure the stresses as they age. There is also a risk factor, given the proximity of the system to a building as a high value asset.
The other key technology driver Padlewski notes is higher efficiency panels.
“We need to ensure components and panels operate safely, durably and reliably.”