Solar PV – March 2016 PQRS Industry Report

Besamandla Cape Quarter photo

This industry update includes a melange of factual data, speculation, and personal opinion. The intention of this report is to circulate information about the development of an industry that is on the verge of explosive growth last encountered with the introduction of the IT sector a little more than two decades ago. Graphs, tables and diagrams have been used to  represent data in the report.

Available data.
Data used to determine the installed capacity has been collected from a combination of sources and 95%+ installation data can be verified. Essentially a blend of three categories of installations are contained in the data.
  1. Solar Borehole Pumps
  2. Government Concession Programs/Installations
  3. Individually listed systems
    • Grid Tied
    • Off-grid

PQRS was created to be a training, information and data platform with the intention of providing data for investors, suppliers, installers and industry bodies. Distribution of credible data is key to the sustainable growth of the sector & PQRS aims to be a conduit of information to an established network of service and product providers.

The PQRS database consists of data that has been collected of installers and suppliers that provide services and products locally but outside of the REI4P government utility scale projects. In order to provide an overall view of the industry this report includes some REI4P data as a means of providing a baseline as a comparative measure.

The bigger picture

Graph 1 below shows the contribution of wind and PV to the grid. This graph was made available by the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies and although the data in the graph is only based on REI4P projects, studying the graph leaves a feeling of accomplishment and hope towards a renewable future; as it is a graphical representation of the result of hours, weeks and years of labour, lobbying and investment by pioneers of solar and wind technology.


Symphony of power

Graph 2 provides a break down of the 41 REI4P utility scale solar PV plants and then nr.42 on the graph draws a comparison between a utility scale plant and the total estimated installed PV capacity in SA. Combined installed PV capacity for privately owned systems are the equivalent of two of the larger 75MW solar PV parks in generation capacity.
Utility scale vs pqrs listed capacity

Percentage of Privately installed PV measured against the grid.

Some would argue that it is necessary to minimise the grid as much as possible by increasing renewable energy as part of the mix. In context; what we need to be working towards is a stable grid. Most residential end users dream of being off-grid due to historical grid instabilities during periods of load shedding. When solar and storage is used as a means to stabilize the energy supply, the grid becomes a tool that can be used in order to ensure  continuous uninterrupted power. It is my opinion that this is the ideal scenario, i.o.w. one where all available resources are used to create a “stable grid” supply.

Grid vs private PV systems

Distribution of installations per province

Graph 4 distribution of installations per province

Listing installations provide the opportunity of being exposed to a vast number of companies and organisations involved in the sector. Table 2 lists 215 businesses currently involved in the PV sector as providing either a product or service or both.

Table 2 Suppliers and installers in the solar PV sector SA


How organisations and contractors are listed.

Smaller sized projects (1-10kWp) typically have one contractor doing the design, procurement, safety, installation and commissioning. On larger projects these responsibilities are shared between employees or sub contractors with titles changing to Procurement Manager, Project Administrator, Engineering manager and Safety Manager all of whom are overseen by a Team leader. Essentially all roles can be represented by including only three roles covering the design, installation and project management of a site. Hence the list at PQRS have been tailored to recognise these roles within the development and installation of a solar pv project. Each stakeholder is credited with the same size system even though all stakeholders were involved on the same project, mainly due to different responsibilities being awarded for the project in question.

Role allocation pqrs database

Installers, Project Managers and Designers

134 Listed installers of whom 102 installers have systems that have been listed on the PQRS site. The remaining 32 installers have no data to reflect against their names as no data have been submitted or data has been submitted but not yet drawn into the database. Companies or organisations involved in solar PV installations may be listed in the table under project managers, installers or system designers. All organisations regardless of the type of role fulfilled during projects have been listed in the following table. The list in question is dynamic and is updated all the time hence there might be names of installers & system data not being reflected in these values.

Due to the source of the data, for each category of installation, a number of installations do not have installers associated with the particular installation as the installer may not be known. Although the site may be known, and the size of the site may be known, it is documented with installer value listed as “unknown”. For the purposes of this report all unknown values have been omitted from the ranking listings. Table 3 indicates the Top 20 Installers, EPC and Project managers for around 1000 installations submitted.

Installers, Designers and Project Managers involved in multiple provinces

Companies involved in providing a service for design, installation and project management not listed in table 3 below have only been active in a single province according to systems and installations submitted to the PQRS database.

Province of installation

Total installed capacity

Table 4 provides a summary of all related categories of installation data and also indicates unknown installers. Unknown installers consist of installation data submitted by suppliers where the suppliers wanted to have the installation listed but was not prepared to make the name of the installer known for strategic reasons.

Values provided for Solar borehole pumps indicate small systems primarily used for providing drinking water for live stock and game farming applications.

Collated Installation data March 2016

Top 20 Installer & designer & project manager ranking

Tables 5-8 indicates ranking of installers in four different categories
  1. Table 5 – Overall Top 20
  2. Table 6 – 0,5 to 10kWp range
  3. Table 7 – 11 to 99kWp range
  4. Table 8 – 100 – 999kWp range
Top 20 installers, designers and project managers for “Total installed PV system generation capacity (kWp)”
PQRS top 20
Table 6 Installer ranking 0,5kWp - 10kWp
Table 7 Installer ranking 0,5kWp - 10kWp
Table 8 Installer ranking 0,5kWp - 10kWp
Most prominent inverter brands
It should be noted that the data contained in the next two graphs constitute the combined data submitted and collected over the last 15 months. Where suppliers submitted data of installations that included the brand of inverter, those sets of data may inadvertently affect the results. Of the 1000 individual listings, 525 have data included that would represent the inverter brand. 525 out of a 1000 listings seem like a very well represented percentage of installations, however when the bulk of the listings represent a single brand the data might seem somewhat skewed. Data on the remaining installations were not available at the time of circulating this report. The actual number of installations are closer to 84 000,  please see table 4 for clarification on the number of installations.
Prominent inverter brands 0-10kWp range
Prominent inverter brands 11-999kWp range
Number and nature of businesses migrating to the Solar PV sector
number and nature of business migrating to PV

PQRS have been tracking the growth of the solar PV industry for the last 15 months with unique data and stats on the growth of the sector. The latest figures that have been released shows the migration of other sectors into the PV industry.

Data shown in the graph above represents the registration date of companies involved in the PV sector in SA.

Interpretation of the graph: In an effort to provide clarity, the data shows the actual registration date of companies involved in the PV sector and not necessarily when the companies in question started trading in solar PV technology. What the data also indicates; is that companies currently involved in solar PV might have originated as an organisation with a focus outside of energy, i.e. plumbing companies, IT co’s, etc. In summary it can be said that companies to the left of the graph had a focus on a completely different product or service when they were registered as a formal business opposed to newer businesses that registered during a period where demand for solar PV allowed the company to focus specifically on PV and other renewable energy technologies.

Pre 1995: Companies that were registered during this period should by now; have a solid customer,  plumbing and electrical contractor base. It makes sense for organisations with a good customer base to migrate to solar PV and alternative energy solutions. Businesses that registered specifically to do solar PV installations pre 1995 probably had to have another form of income in order to maintain profitable and sustainable as only really die hard tree huggers succumbed to selling solar PV to over zealous green beans who; at that time, was deemed to have more money than wisdom. Solar was expensive and only end users with a determined outlook to make a difference to global warming & investing in renewables to make a statement committed to spending money on a virtually unknown technology back in those days.

1995 – 2011: The Blending period. Companies registered during this era represent a diverse range of businesses maintaining their focus on products and services outside of solar and steadily migrating to PV as demand dictated  strategy.  The largest number of wholesalers and suppliers currently involved in the PV sector are represented in this era. This could be due to businesses registered in this period being well established with a good database of end users and or installers to draw from in order to support PV type sales and installations. Suppliers registered in this period historically supplied, IT, Industrial automation, solar water heating and plumbing equipment.

2011 – current: Newbies in the sector typically register as solar PV installation & or energy efficiency companies. Interesting to note that the reason for registration has shifted from providing a solar PV service/product as a secondary service/product to being mainly PV and renewable service/product solution driven companies.

If you have an interest in the sector and keen on investing in a business that would provide a solar solution which is either product or service based, find an established supplier and or installer to help guide your business through the rough terrain. Although the demand for new energy technologies may be growing it is by no means an easy sector to become part of due to competition amongst suppliers and installers to provide better prices on the same or similar products.

Rather spend R3k – R10k on gathering information about the sector by attending a course or two opposed to spending R1m on importing a new product from China to compete against the 70 different brands of locally available inverters.

PQRS Training related information.