Africa is a darned big continent. And it gets a lot of sun, which makes it a good market for solar power. Most countries within Africa generate much of their power with diesel generators to feed their small electric grids. SunPower Corp. is increasingly looking into how to develop more projects on the continent and will have manufacturing in South Africa.
SunPower’s potential expansion into Africa was bolstered last year when it purchased Tenesol from Total, which has a majority stake in SunPower.
“Given the Tenesol acquisition, we now have the opportunity to push market-leading solutions for key off-grid segments as well as on grid,” said Manuel Brachet, vice president of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa/ Business Development for SunPower.
Tenesol already has a plant in South Africa, at which SunPower can manufacture.
“SunPower has been active in South Africa since the beginning of 2011 with a local office in Sandton, and now we have significant historical presence as a result of our recent Tenesol acquisition,” Brachet said. “We believe this is a great market, and we’re developing new opportunities in the on-grid and off-grid sectors. This has vastly grown our team and our footprint from Morocco to Senegal to South Africa to Madagascar.”
The high cost of diesel will be a driving factor in Africa’s transition to solar.
“Photovoltaics are already competitive with diesel, which is predominant in Africa, and PV is rapidly approaching other conventional technologies,” Brachet said.
A challenge in the African market is that it’s not connected to a large, reliable grid. So SunPower is developing products both for on- and off-grid applications there.
“Tenesol has been highly successful with off grid solutions and much of the market depends on this as part of the energy mix,” he said.
The Total investment in SunPower was key to the company’s efforts in Africa.
“One of the advantages of our Total transformational investment is that it opens up approximately 130 markets for SunPower to explore,” Brachet said.
With that you can expect to hear more about the company truly going global in coming years.