South Africa’s solar PV value chain must develop quality culture – juwi

By 2030, total installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity in South Africa is expected to reach 8 400 MW; however, to ensure sustainable growth, the country has to develop and implement quality infrastructure for these systems, says juwi Renewable Energies MD Richard Doyle.

“Embedding a culture of quality is vital if we want to unlock the huge economic potential of solar technologies,” he notes.

Doyle will be speaking at the upcoming Solar Power Africa conference in Cape Town, as well as moderating the “Minimise risk and enable quality assurance” session, which will outline the steps already taken towards establishing and evolving a culture of quality excellence in the South African value chain.

The conference will be held at the International Convention Centre from February 16 to 18. It will include 18 sessions and over 70 speakers and hosts a free-to-attend exhibition, with more than 60 suppliers to the sector.

Doyle will be joined by other renewable-energy experts, SOLINK technical director David Raphael, and SUNCybernetics Solar PV Training head Faure van Schalkwyk, who will share best practice as well as international learnings that should shape and influence South Africa’s solar sector.

“When we talk about quality assurance, it isn’t just about enhancing solar technologies. It is how we improve the reliability of large solar PV systems over their productive lifetime. That is from design to installation, through operation and maintenance and of course disposal of the system.

“By embedding quality and safety standards, we will see maximum value delivered to the life of a solar plant. This will also reduce the risk for investors, policy makers and consumers,” says Doyle.

South Africa is noted to have seen a transition from the utility-scale solar PV market towards the residential, commercial and industrial (RCI) market segments.

Industry body the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) estimates that more than 1 200 MW of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) solar PV projects have been installed across the RCI markets.

Based on these estimations, there are about 160 000 projects completed across South Africa, it says.

“The growth of the sector is of course to be welcomed, but with these additional projects coming on stream, it is of national importance that we ensure quality of installation, quality of connection and the quality of the energy output.

“We need to ensure that all practical steps are taken to build a culture of quality that sees manufacturers, installers and operators adhere to best practice and ensure safety and quality across the value chain,” Doyle emphasises.

He will discuss the interventions to date that have been introduced to regulate the solar PV industry, including the PV GreenCard quality mechanism, as well as the Municipal SSEG Application processes and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa registration and licensing regime.

South Africa’s solar PV market is not as mature as some others, and the country must ensure it takes the learnings and embeds applicable international standards in the local market, SAPVIA emphasises.

It points out that countries such as Germany have made sure to introduce and rigorously monitor the quality of all aspects of the solar PV value chain.

“Of course, it is vital that we take into account the nuances of the South African sector through country-specific standards, but there is a core group of international standards that have been developed that would cover every aspect of the PV value chain, from component manufacturing through to the end of the technology’s life,” indicates Doyle.


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