South Africa gets major rural solar power project

50,000 homes in South Africa - many with very little chance of ever being connected to the national grid - could soon have access to solar electricity, following a joint venture between South Africa's national electricity supplier, Eskom, and Shell International Renewables Ltd (SIR).

The JV will target these homes over the next two to three years, with a solar home system designed by Shell Solar and Conlog (Pty) Ltd. It will cost customers US$30 to install and around US$8/month – roughly the same as they currently spend on unsustainable fuels like candles or paraffin. The monthly charge will be stored on a magnetic card that when inserted will power the unit for 30 days.

This is the largest commercial solar rural electrification project ever, says Shell Solar. Speaking at the launch, SIR President, Jim Dawson, said “It’s one year since we launched our renewables business to develop sustainable energy globally, and I regard this venture as one of our most important projects, a blueprint for similar markets around the world. . . Equally important is that the project provides a commercially viable way of tackling a key social issue – electricity for those living in rural communities.”

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