In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people do not have reliable access to electricity and 30% of the population has no access to clean water.
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Providing access to electricity would create new opportunities for individuals, companies, and future generations to achieve economic growth and more self-determination.
In January 2016, a mini-grid developer and operator called Africa GreenTec was founded by Aida and Torsten Schreiber with the goal of providing 3 million people in sub-Saharan Africa with electricity by 2030.
The founding couple observed an urgent need for the supply of easy-access energy among off-grid villages in 2014 and started to develop a portable solar plant called the Solartainer.
Providing Electricity and Sustainable Water Cleaning for Rural Areas
By developing an intelligent system that can withstand the conditions in some of Africa’s most remote off-grid regions, Africa GreenTec has brought easy-access energy to a new level by supplying entire communities in rural villages with sustainable electricity.
Closely working with local employees and partners, this local, decentralized electricity provider operates a utility business model, where electricity, water purification solutions, cool storage, and other services are sold to individuals at the company’s “impact sites.”
These impact sites, of which there are 15 in Mali and one in Niger, use effective cold chains and water treatment to better prepare for the consequences of climate change and provide new prospects for counteracting migration.
The company’s prices and salaries are modified in line with the social and economic conditions, where the impact sites are located, to ensure that they can be operated as economically self-sufficient as possible, thereby reducing the likelihood of the projects failing after a few years. By striving for profitability in this way, the company can drive and efficiently scale its positive impact and increase productivity for the local people.
At the heart of the impact sites is Africa GreenTec’s mobile power plant – the Solartainer – which is driven by Africa’s cleanest easy-access energy source – solar power.
More About the Solartainer
The Solartainer generates electricity that is delivered to customers via the three-phase low-voltage power line of the mini-grid.
As well as generating electricity, the Solartainer can store electricity and is equipped with a water purification system to provide sustainable water cleaning for rural areas.
The system can also be upgraded with a satellite connectivity add-on feature to provide internet access through Wi-Fi.
The current standard version of Solartainer – the Solartainer Amali – weighs 16 tons, has a built-in 67 kWh (kilowatt-hour) lithium-ion battery and has an output of up to 50 kWp (kilowatts-peak).
Owing to its portability, the power plant can be delivered and assembled directly at locations almost anywhere in the world.
Since all components are provided within the container, an experienced team can usually set up the Solartainer to deliver electricity within 48 hours. The components are also protected from external influences in off-grid regions with harsh conditions such as sandstorms, floods, and extreme temperatures of more than 45 °C.
In addition, the containerized design means operators can react quickly to changes in demand, political instability or expansion of the central power grid.
Owing to its lithium-ion power storage, the Solartainer can still generate energy at night and in cloudy weather conditions. These storage modules were developed in close cooperation with Africa GreenTec’s technology partner Tesvolt. A specifically developed cooling system ensures that they are adapted to cope with hot and harsh conditions.
The Solartainer Treats up to 2000 Liters of Water Every Hour
The Solartainer is equipped with a water purification system that can treat up to 2000 liters of river or well water per hour, enabling the supply of clean drinking water exactly where it is most needed and reducing the risk of disease in communities.
The optional satellite connectivity feature also enables connection to the internet in cases where GSM cellular network coverage is limited, enabling the Solartainer to be maintained remotely. Furthermore, this add-on feature can be used to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for village residents to access.
Aside from the Solartainer Amali, further systems that are in the product pipeline include the Solartainer Kani (“little lion”) and the Solartainer Aleeke (“strong lion”).
The Kani is integrated into a 20-foot container, making it around half the size of the Amali. This lightweight and flexible system, which is very quick to set up and transportable by helicopter, is suitable for use in disaster relief and for installation in remote areas.
The Aleeke is integrated into a 45-foot container and will be Africa GreenTec’s most powerful model, delivering approximately 100 kWp of solar electricity.
Africa GreenTec’s Vision
Since the founding of Africa GreenTec in 2016, the company has been growing its team both in Germany and on location in Africa. The team brings together management expertise with a background in successful business start-ups and corporate leadership, as well as young visionaries.
Africa GreenTec believes that the company can play an important part in creating communities based on mutual respect and the sustainable use of resources.
Our goal is to supply 3 million people with electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The company is scaling its business model in the rapidly growing off-grid market, which is projected to expand more than ten-fold over the next decade.
“Being an established company in the market, Africa GreenTec is well positioned to expand its leading role and enable growing numbers of people to achieve more self-determination and growth,” says the team.
References and Further Reading
Africa GreenTec. [Online] Empower. Available at: https://www.africagreentec.com/?lang=en
Africa GreenTec. [Online] Who we are. Available at: https://www.africagreentec.com/who-we-are/?lang=en
Africa GreenTec. [Online] Solartainer Amali – Our hub for sustainable development. Available at: https://www.africagreentec.com/home/solartainer/?lang=en
Africa GreenTec. [Online] FAQs. https://www.africagreentec.com/faq/?lang=en