The Solar & Future Energy Show 2023 Review
The goldrush in the solar industry has begun
What’s what in the solar industry? After two days of The Solar & Future Energy Show Africa on 25-26 April in Johannesburg, everyone is up to speed on innovations, trends and coming focus topics of the solar industry. GREEN Solar Academy attended with a stand and our whole team and lots of trainers were there. That means many eyes and ears are on the ground so that we can now spill all the tea of what happened and what the industry insiders are chatting about.
The show was attended by many different types of participants. Where in years past we could recognise a general trend of newbie or experienced installer, this year it was a combination of both. People wanting to become installers, new installers, and well-established installers all attended the show. The mood was incredibly positive, and it feels like the goldrush on the solar industry in South Africa has truly begun.
The same could be said for the exhibitors with titans like Huawei, Victron and Krannich rubbing shoulders with newer businesses and wholesalers. Huawei not only had the largest stand (in our exhibition hall, at least) but they were also the Diamond Sponsor of the show and hosted an invitation-only sit-down gala event on the first night, leaving people in little doubt about their decision to invest into South Africa’s solar industry.
There were relatively few new products to make you go “hmmmm”; it would have been exciting to see a challenger to lithium this year, but there was nothing that caught our eye. Very few resellers of lead-acid were in attendance, a notable exception being our Technology Partner and co-exhibitor BAE with their highly prized premium range of rugged VLA and VRLA energy storage solutions.
Innovation and Trends
One of the new ‘innovations’ we did notice was the all-in-one/combination units consisting of inverter and battery in one streamlined casing. These units come pre-programmed to allow for fast and error-free installation and are a good option for apartment buildings whose roof space cannot compensate for the energy needs of numerous units (yes you can still add solar panels to the system if you want).
Huawei’s Power M and the Kodak OG series are just some of the industries responses to this trend and we are excited to see how this develops in the future. Several key players mused that the industry worldwide is shaping its offerings to meet market demands, South Africa being of particular interest globally, with products being developed specifically for our unique circumstances.
Phocos is investing in the development of a more affordable 1kW version of their existing hybrid inverter AnyGrid that should do well in our country. And everybody wants to try and repeat the success of SunSynk, a brand that flies off the shelves as fast as it comes into stock, and we saw several clones that could fit the brief when the original product is not available.
Current and Future Opportunities
Now that solar systems are becoming common knowledge and the gold rush of installations is in full swing, we saw some exhibitors looking to the future for opportunities. One topic that we noticed gaining prominence was PV system maintenance, more especially the cleaning of modules. With so many systems being installed in South Africa, installers are having to take into consideration the climate conditions (such as dust). System maintenance like cleaning modules is going to be an integral part of the solar industry and a business field companies can invest in.
Krannich has jumped on this opportunity early and has a proprietary product, called Chemitek, that they are selling to help installers correctly maintain and clean modules.
Victron did something a little different and offered live trainings on their systems at the show. You could sign up for different sessions – on different systems and products – with Victron and then you would have, essentially, product training with some of the Victron master installers and product designers. It was a nice break from the usual product shows and gave an air of exclusivity to the Victron stand.
We heard the phrase Green Hydrogen more than a couple of times. Hydrogen produced using electricity generated through solar, as opposed to coal, which is where the green moniker comes from. While we aren’t in the business of explaining to people how to split the atom, we did notice the requirement of solar in the green hydrogen process. So, there is yet another opportunity and business field opening for solar installers in the future.
Regulations and the PV GreenCard?
We fielded more enquiries from electricians and engineers who were seeking to obtain the SAPVIA PV GreenCard than in years gone by. And it’s gratifying to hear sparkies admit that maybe they don’t know everything about DC and PV even if they’re a dab-hand at AC and CoCs.
There were also a lot of questions around regulations: who can install solar? Who can issue a CoC? Why can’t SAPVIA simply assess existing installations, why do installers need to submit to an exam? Who is SAPVIA? OK that last one made us giggle, coming as it did from the local employee of a major components’ supplier.
What we found very edifying was the number of alumni who have established successful installation companies and visited the stand seeking training for their own employees. Skilled staff are crucial to the survival of a successful solar business; we appreciate that companies see the value in investing in professional training for their staff.
Do we walk the talk when it comes to sustainability?
There was one thing that struck a bit of a sour note for us: we’re in an industry that emphasises sustainability, yet the waste we saw once the displays were torn down after the second day did not echo that sentiment at all! True to our full name – the Global Renewable Energy & Efficiency Network – we do our utmost to ensure our stand display is 100% Zero Waste, and any time we purchase or commission an item we consider how it can be re-used for future expos or repurposed and put to work at our head office in Randburg.
Considering this, we’ve got to give a shout-out to IBC and their living green walls, composed of plants on loan that were lovingly gathered up by the plant people afterwards.
Next year the show will sport a new name, The Solar & Storage Show Africa, and there are rumours that a fourth level the Sandton Convention Centre will be added for exhibitors. We’re not sure it will be possible to take everything in just 2 days anymore, but you can find out on 26-27 March 2024.
The solar industry is growing.
The Solar & Storage Show Africa is growing, and more and more distributors are going to make a run for the “easy” money to be had by a market desperate for stock. One of our main takeaways from the show is that the market is harder to oversee than just a few years ago with new brands, distributors and wholesalers popping up every couple of weeks. So, you’re going to need to know how to sort the wheat from the chaff.
A sure way to ensure that you are dealing with quality products and companies that offer after-sales service and honour sales agreements is to get training. At GREEN Solar Academy you can find training that introduces you to first-rate components that you should be using in your installations, and connects you to the manufactures, resellers and policy makers who are invested in your success and are here to stay.
You can follow our course guide at https://solar-training.org/course-guide/ for more information on the training journey that is right for you, or contact the GREEN Team on +27 (0) 10 312 6724 or firstname.lastname@example.org