South Africa’s WiSolar plans Nigerian power-on-demand expansion

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Monday, 6 June 2022 12:15

Nigeria must invest more in solar panels to generate electricity Millenius/ Shutterstock

South African residential solar-on-demand supplier WiSolar aims to expand in Nigeria, founder and CEO Tonye Irims tells The Africa Report.

The company has signed a letter of intent with Abuja-based New Frontier Developments under which about 1,000 homes in Abuja, Lagos and Ekiti state will be built with pre-installed solar systems. WiSolar is seeking opportunities for further expansion in Nigeria, Irims says.

Over 80 million Nigerians do not have access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), even those who are on the grid grapple with intermittent availability. Many households depend on gasoline or diesel-powered generators for their electricity supply, and they also use kerosene, coal and wood.

According to Hawilti Research, daily available grid-power generation capacity stood at below 6 GW in 2021, with 20 to 25 GW of power consumed off-grid. Much of that power is generated from imported diesel and premium motor spirit (PMS) at four to five times the cost of on-grid gas-fired electricity.

Soaring, unregulated diesel prices in Nigeria this year have raised optimism about prospects for solar-power adoption, with local companies like Starsight Energy planning expansion. Irims aims to roll out the system to 4,000 homes per year in Nigeria and South Africa. “Solar should be as accessible as home WiFi,” he says. In both countries, “the grid can’t really be relied on”.

  • WiSolar is aiming for the affluent residential market, with the system intended as a complement rather than a replacement of grid access.
  • Panels are mounted at residentials and the energy is channelled through wire cables to the inverter to power the home.
  • The system can either be bought as part of a new home purchase, or bought and installed at a cost of around $10,000.

South Africa

Irims started the company in 2016 and retains full ownership. Equipment is imported from China, where he made several trips to work on solar technology.

In South Africa, WiSolar has installed about 9MW of residential solar power. It has a partnership with Nedbank, which finances installation, with the debt being paid back from pre-payments for power used. It also has an agreement with Teak Place Estate to supply the system to newly built homes. The strategy is to grow primarily through partnerships with property developers, and Irims is in talks with another potential South African partner.

The company is testing a solar power on demand app, which Irims expects to be available on Google Play and Apple Store in coming weeks. The app will enable customers to buy recharge tokens for their solar power and they will also be automatically enrolled on the platform as merchants to sell packages and earn commissions.

  • Irims also wants to expand to Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
  • He is seeking funding from development finance institutions, and hopes to access about $40m in debt. “We need big funders for the pre-paid model.”
  • A long-term aim, he says, is to take WiSolar public.

The bottom line

WiSolar sees creaking national grids and spiralling energy costs as opening the door to solar power expansion across Africa.

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