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Solareff – At the vanguard of South Africa’s renewables revolution

It is something of a mystery how many still believe that energy is a scarce resource, when, if utilised, our skies, seas, and air offer the potential to provide us with more of it than we could ever possibly use. Fortunately, however, this antiquated belief is starting to fade.

The past decade has seen the emergence of a growing awareness and conscientiousness of environmental sustainability issues, and this is coming at the expense of the fossil fuel-based energy sources that have traditionally fired the global economy. Certainly, in South Africa – a country that basks in near-constant sunshine all-year round, and where unreliable, insufficient grid-sourced energy supply is par for the course – the sustainable energy revolution has taken hold in a way that few could ever have foreseen.

In little over a half decade, South Africa has quietly and pragmatically developed a progressive renewable energy sector that is the envy of many a larger, richer nation. And as one of the companies far-sighted enough to enter the alternative energy market nearly a decade ago when it was still in its infancy, Solareff is now reaping the rewards.

What a difference seven years can make! Where once it had only the capacity to take on smaller contracts, the company has grown rapidly over the time since to become what it is today: one of South Africa’s leading solar Photovoltaic (PV) solutions specialists, with a proven track record of successfully completing the most demanding rooftop and ground-mounted Solar PV installations to the highest quality standards.

When you’re accustomed to taking on the some of the biggest, most complex installations, not only in the Southern Hemisphere but on the entire African continent, successfully completing a project that meets client expectation requires more than simply turning up with men and equipment – it requires the provision of a full turnkey service which can cover all aspects of the task at hand. Throughout every stage of the journey, from the design phase at the beginning to the installation of the last solar PV unit at the end, Solareff works with its clients to ensure delivery of a tailored product that is optimised to meet their needs.

“Solareff is a specialist South African-based renewable energy solutions company, with a proven track record of installing medium- to large-scale rooftop and ground-mounted Solar Photovoltaic (PV) projects. With more than 18MWp of commissioned and current projects, we continue to be leaders in high-quality Solar PV solutions across the commercial, agricultural and industrial markets,” explained Jaco Botha, Solareff’s Managing Director and Founder.

He continued: “At Solareff, we are committed to providing guaranteed, top quality, sustainable Solar PV solutions designed to meet our client’s unique electricity consumption requirements. Our in-house team of qualified engineers deliver full turnkey solutions – including engineering design, procurement, construction, monitoring and after sales management. We have the expertise and capacity, through our team of professional project managers, to ensure that all our projects are effectively managed and executed, while keeping our clients updated throughout the installation process.”

Not that Solareff’s commitment to its clients ends following project completion – far from it. Solareff is a company which has grown to become a market leader, having carefully cultivated a reputation for excellence. Jaco understands all too well the importance of providing a superior level of service that demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond client expectations. In-line with this customer-first ethos, a comprehensive post-installation service, which includes regular upkeep and maintenance of solar PV systems, incorporating online monitoring tools to ensure early fault detection and correction, comes as standard. By striving to exceed expectations in this way, the company has won a great deal of repeat business from customers – an achievement which Jaco credits as being the key to the company’s success.

Undoubtedly, Solareff’s growing order book is a by-product of its great work, but it is also representative of the alternative energy sector’s emergence as a reputable and financially viable energy source. A drive toward a cleaner, more environmentally sustainable South African economy is taking place, as both the business community and households turn away from grid-sourced energy en masse, and the coal-fired power stations that power it, in favour of off-grid energy sources. Solareff, and its fellow providers of renewable energy sources have naturally been the beneficiaries of this seismic shift in attitude – a point that is reinforced by the recent successful completion of two of its more recent installations, the Graham Beck Wine Estate and Woolworths projects.

The name Graham Beck is one which South African wine connoisseurs will be familiar with, both for its reputation as a highly-regarded producer of red, white, and sparkling wines and its standing as one of Africa’s foremost ethical wine brands. Graham Beck Wine Estate has gone to great lengths to go about its business operations in a manner which is environmentally sustainable, and this has manifested itself recently in the company’s decision to install a 312kWp solar PV system on the roofs of buildings across its sprawling estate. The project, which required 1,200 Canadian Solar 260Wp panels, equating to 2,384m2 of PV surface area, proved to be a vast undertaking but its benefits are undeniable. This solution will provide 16% of total energy consumption, which will result in cost savings of over R300,000 in the first year and cut CO2 emissions by 474 tons.

“With all the sunshine hours in the Robertson area we have a high solar irradiation factor. That factor, combined with the fact that all the roof areas on our structures are positioned at the perfect angle for optimizing the solar radiation, made it an easy decision to harvest sunlight for electricity,” said Louis Jordaan, Graham Beck’s Operations Manager.

The electricity generated by the solar PV solution is for the estate’s own consumption – the majority being consumed by the cellar and any surplus being fed into their own grid. This installation will continue to produce clean ‘green’ electricity for at least 25 years, providing tangible environmental benefits for sustainable, responsible farming.

Another major project that was completed by Solareff for the global retailer Woolworths has had no less a profound environmental impact. As one of the country’s largest and most prominent retailers, Woolworths’ ambitious aim to become entirely reliant on renewable energy sources by 2030 will have an incredibly positive environmental impact, and set a high bar for the rest of the South African business community to follow. Solareff’s selection to install, commission, and maintain a vast 1MWp solar PV system at Woolworths’ Midrand, Gauteng-based Distribution Centre represents a leap forward towards realising its goal.

The installation of this system, made-up of 3,129 Canadian Solar 320W panels covering 6,920m2 of roof space, was a project even grander in scale than the Graham Beck project. In the first year alone, this energy solution will account for 12% of the site’s total energy usage, which will result in the reduction of 1,700 tons of CO2 emissions – an outcome that has delighted Woolworths, according to Energy Manager Quentin Zevio, who stated: “The completion of this project is incredibly exciting for Woolworths. Sustainability is a core value of our business, so it is only natural that we accelerate towards more renewable sources of energy. This is a significant step towards our ambitious goal – 100% renewable energy from 2030. We are grateful to Solareff for taking us a step closer to achieving this.”

So, what next for the company? Well, Jaco is optimistic that the coming 12-months will be no less fruitful than the year just gone for a number of reasons. Solareff, with the ability to leverage the strong warehousing, logistical, and financial resources of the Alviva Group – formerly known as Pinnacle Holdings Ltd – has access to a number of exciting growth opportunities, and is poised to continue its expansion further across the African landmass. Additionally, the company has been buoyed by the decision of Clearwater Mall’s owners Hyprop to further expand on the installation work that Solareff completed in 2015.

Jaco elaborated, saying: “Our clients trust our expertise and we deliver on our promises and aim to exceed their expectations. A large percentage of our business comes from repeat customers, Clearwater Mall owned by Hyprop is a great example of this: in 2014 we won an open tender for a 500kWp solar PV rooftop installation at Clearwater Mall which they wanted to use a pilot project. 

After being impressed with the results of the pilot, Hyprop fast-tracked the installation of an additional 1MWp solution which was awarded to us without going out on tender, we completed the installation of phase 2 in 2015. Hyprop have now engaged Solareff to install phase 3 which will be a further 1.4MWp solution – on completion of phase 3 this will make Clearwater Mall the 3rd largest rooftop solar PV solution in South Africa.”