Almost all of South African solar firms could now be considering expansion into other markets on the continent, said Pierre Doutreloux, managing director of Exosun Pty, tracker manufacturer Exosun’s South African subsidiary.
A sluggish home market and the prospect of rapid growth in other African nations is leading South Africa-based solar players to expand into neighboring countries.
“All big EPCs [engineering, procurement and construction contractors] are now in South Africa to try to win projects [abroad],” Doutreloux said. “South African companies now try to do the same, with or without success.”
Scatec Solar, for example, has extended its African operations into Rwanda and West Africa after entering the South African market in 2010, where it has won 448 MW of projects.
Similarly, leading South African renewable energy developer BioTherm Energy has been awarded preferred bidder status on four PV projects in Zambia and two in Burkina Faso, as well as expanding into Uganda and Morocco.
Many South African developers are expanding outside the country because they are finding the local market restricted, said James Hunt, Africa director at OST Energy, a renewable energy technical consultancy.
In contrast, African PV markets outside South Africa are expected to grow rapidly over the coming years, according to Hunt.
Hunt said there is an estimated project pipeline over the next few years of more than 1 GW in Egypt, more than 500 MW in Nigeria and more than 100 MW across other African countries, including Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Senegal.
Hunt’s predictions are higher than estimates in GTM Research’s June 2015 Global PV Demand Outlook 2015-2020 report, which projected annual PV demand at 1 GW for the whole of Africa in 2016, rising to 2 GW in 2017 and 3 GW in 2018.
“If these pipelines get realized, then we could see several gigawatts of PV being constructed in Africa in the next few years,” Hunt said.
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