Solar Show summary

Like many from the industry, we are still busy with Solar Show follow-ups and processing what happened during those busy two days in August. To facilitate the digesting of all the impressions, we invited our alumni to an online panel discussion on 31st August. Under the headline “Solar Show Summary: The direction the SA solar industry is taking” we evaluated the show and general industry trends with 4 industry experts. The mutual impression is that the industry has massively evolved since the last solar show and knows exactly what product it wants. Also, the training demand is increasing, and the industry has started to upskill young talent. 

The event was not only a Solar Show wrap-up but also the close of Women’s Month and GREEN’s Hidden Gems campaign where we encouraged our (naturally male dominated) network to consider women in their proximity for a solar career and to refer them to a training to dipatoe into the eclectic solar industry. Hence, Lindy Taylor, Business Development & Innovation Director of AltGen moderated the discussion of the all-female panel. The guests were Rethabile Melamu, CEO of SAPVIA, Kgabiso Palesa, Founder of the foundation Kgabiso Palesa Cares, Tersia van Lelyveld, Regional Sales Manager for Gauteng at IBC Solar South Africa and Antje Klauss-Vorreiter, founder and Managing Director of GREEN Solar Academy.  

All panellists participated in the Solar Show with different motivations and take aways. It was Rethabile Melamu’s first visit as the new head of SAPVIA and members welcomed her warmly before they handed over a task list. Current topics for the members are import duties for local manufacturers, environmental studies, glint and glare permits for developers and regulations around the PV GreenCard 

Everyone shares the impression that the market has professionalised a lot. Tersia van Lelyveld from IBC Solar South Africa who has seen the industry going through different development stages says that the testing phase is now over. She observed that customers have identified the products that fit the special conditions in the South African market and manufacturers and distributors have reacted with offers that exactly match these requirements. She also praised the work of training providers and says that “education is leaving a footprint” and that the questions she got from show visitors were more advanced.  

Antje Klauss-Vorreiter from GREEN Solar Academy confirms that impression, “Our booth was frequented by many alumni who already took part in a training and the number of companies enquiring about training for their whole team has never been higher.” Also, the quality of conversations and the technical level of questions was generally higher. To react to this development, GREEN Solar Academy has therefore adapted its training offer and expanded the scope. On the one hand GREEN now has a “Solar 101” course for participants without any technical background who want to join the industry, for example as admin or sales staff or people who only want a slow start. On the other hand, the creation of specialised courses on trouble shooting and wiring and more advanced 1-day courses are underway to accommodate the industry experts who want to get training to fill knowledge gaps. 

Considering the growth of the public interest in the industry, Kgabiso Palesa’s youth project comes at the right time. Her foundation is busy preparing the training of 100 people in solar installation and maintenance with the motivation to grow competent staff who can operate and maintain all the PV plants that have recently been installed in places like the Freestate and the Northern Cape. Kgabiso Palesa foresees a massive skills gap that comes with the growth of the industry and calls companies to take in youth for training to increase much needed local skills transfer and local content.  

On the technology side, new trends are also being established. The Solar Show showed that 210mm wafers are becoming the new standard for modules and now mounting and inverter manufacturers are catching up to match the new size and voltages, e.g., SMA who have released their STP X inverter. Also, in the battery sector optimisation is taking place, following the high voltage trend established storage brands like Solar MD and BYD are presenting new and improved high voltage batteries. Luckily, we can also see an increase in compatibility, Tersia van Lelyveld says, instead of a few selected inverters more brands can now be paired with the equipment. 

Finally, not only has the technology and overall reception of solar energy improved, equality in the industry seems to have also made progress. All four panellists agreed that the share of women in the industry has increased judging from the attendees at the Solar Show. Antje Klauss-Vorreiter announced that incredibly, 37 women registered for a training at GREEN Solar Academy just in the month of August, which is a great success for GREEN’s Hidden Gems campaign.

To put it all in a nutshell, the Solar Show has proven that the PV industry has definitely left its pilot phase. Structures and technology are consolidating. Consequently, new and emerging companies have more to catch-up on and existing companies need to invest to keep the pace. Luckily supporting structures have also evolved, be it in the form of training either product neutral by GREEN Solar Academy or product specific by distributors like IBC Solar, new upcoming talents provided as interns from KP Cares or general support by the industry association SAPVIA.  

Want to see what we are talking about with your own ears and eyes? Watch the recording of the whole webinar here:  

Passcode: y5.e!JgY 

And here are the contact details of our panellists: 

Kgabiso Palesa Founder of Kgabiso Palesa Cares,, Mobile: +27 82 971 7129, Instagram: kp_consults_and_cares 

Tersia Van Lelyveld Regional Sales Manager at IBC Solar South Africa (Pty) Ltd, 

Rethabile Melamu CEO of SAPVIA, 

Antje Klauss-Vorreiter Managing Director of GREEN Solar Academy, 

Moderator: Lindy Taylor, Business Development and Management for Altgen,