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Africa: the emerging continent of the future

Virtually all institutes confirm that Africa has enormous growth potential in the coming years. With the current technical possibilities, there will be more leap-frogs (skipping of usual development steps). We are currently experiencing this with the rapid progress in the development of photovoltaic, network and battery technology. Above all, it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past, which today lead to an enormous burden on the environment and people, but to focus directly on decentralized, sustainable renewable energy and cooperation.

Missing electricity infrastructure as a problem

For an emerging society, basic infrastructure is needed. More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Above all, a lack of reliable productive electricity reduces the chances of economic growth and self-determination. If short-term solutions are available, they are usually unsustainable at present and are operated by fossil fuels. Examples are diesel generators for power generation, diesel pumps for irrigation, or the transport of large quantities of ice using motorcycles or trucks to refrigerate food. In addition, the regions in the Sahel region are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change, which are clearly reflected, for example, by extreme weather events. In order to handle the scarce resources well, a reliable water supply, cooling and other technologies are needed.

The ImpactSite®: how electricity and sustainable services make a difference
With a holistic system solution, Africa GreenTec realizes so-called ImpactSites®. They supply entire villages with solar energy, the most logical and at the same time cleanest energy source in Africa. The company has given electricity a further thought and developed an intelligent system that can withstand the harsh conditions of Africa's far-networked regions and far exceeds today's European standards. The more than 20 successful ImpactSites that Africa GreenTec has already built up demonstrate how technological solutions enable people to shape their future sustainably and self-determined and to seize opportunities for new jobs and income opportunities. Cold chains and water treatment enable better management of the consequences of climate change and give local people new perspectives.


Dimensions at transport
Dimensions/Surface: 40‘ Standard
Length: 12,19 m 
Width: 2,44 m
Height: 2,59 m

Size in operation
Dimensions/Surface: 327,02 m²
Length: 39,66 m
Width: 9,72 m
Height: 3,92 m

Solar modules
Number: 144
Capacity: 50 kWp
Power generation: 194 kWh / day or 70.8 MWh/year
Weight: 16 Tonnen

Power storage
Type: Lithium-ion 
Capacity: 67 kWh

The heart of the Africa GreenTec ImpactSites: the Solartainer®
The Solartainer® is a modular solar power plant that fits into a freight container and can be transported by ship and truck. Set up, the Solartainer® provides electricity with an average capacity of 50 kWp for up to 400 households, 40 SMEs and 10 social institutions. The standard version of the Solartainer® Amali can generate up to 194 kWh of electrical energy per day and 70.8 MWh per year. The generated electricity is supplied to customers via a three-phase, low-voltage power network through the decentralized mini-grid.
Smart meters (smart meters) are used to create digital invoices and implement a multi-level tariff system. Through the use of a 67 kWh lithium-ion storage system, people can also use the electricity in the evening hours. The storage modules are modularly integrated in the Solartainer® and equipped with a specially developed cooling system. The storage systems were developed in close cooperation with technology partners and are adapted to the hot climate and conditions in the global south. Africa GreenTec is currently working on the integration of 2nd-life storage from electromobility into the Solartainer® in order to give batteries that can no longer be used in cars a longer lifespan.

The first Solartainer® was manufactured in January 2015 and set up in Mali in September 2015. The containerized solution has many key advantages for use in the global south. The Solartainer® can be taken to almost any destination in the world. It can be set up and put into operation directly on site, as all components are built into the container. With an experienced team, the Solartainer® is installed within one day. The mobile design also offers the possibility of transporting the Solartainer® to another village and setting it up there at any time, if required. The components used for the Solartainer® are designed for extreme environmental influences and mechanical loads and are therefore resistant to sand, dust and heat. The solar modules reliably deliver energy even with large warming. In the container, the power storage unit, control system and inverter are also protected from environmental influences. Even storms with wind speeds of over 100 km/h or lightning strikes are no problem for the Solartainer®. The products are equipped with a remote maintenance system through which all system-relevant parameters can be monitored worldwide. In the event of faults, the technicians in the village can react quickly and, in the event of major defects, the delivery of spare parts can be coordinated.

solartainer road
Fig. 1: The Solartainer® on its way to use before it is set up and then generates electricity directly on site. Here on an ImpactSite in Niger (below). © Africa GreenTec, Patrick Reimers

The Cooltainer®
Another module of the ImpactSite is the Cooltainer®, an intelligent and innovative approach to cooling. The Cooltainer® represents a autarkic, i.e. self-sustaining, solution for a sustainable cold chain. Farmers, who make up 53% of the population, are the basis of the African economy. The Cooltainer® minimizes food wastage and creates new distribution channels. Currently, 40% of the fruit and vegetable harvest in sub-Saharan Africa spoils due to non-existent cold chains. Through the Cooltainer®, this food is saved and can be sold at the markets at better prices. The sophisticated box rental system makes operation as simple as possible. Every customer can simply rent a cool box in the Cooltainer® at fair prices in order to store their goods cooled and thus keep them fresh for longer. One unit offers space for 180 50-liter boxes on 10 m² and cools them at a temperature between 2 and 10 °C. An integrated 5 kWp solar system and a battery storage system with up to 21 kWh storage capacity make this possible. The cold storage room is managed by employees on site, creating 2 jobs per Cooltainer® directly.

Beyond village communities:​​​​​ Impact Products, C&I and Supply of Cities
The ImpactSites are completed by the ImpactProducts developed by Africa GreenTec, which can either be purchased individually or leased. The ImpactProducts make the use of the generated electricity even more efficient, for example by means of solar-powered water pumps (PumpUPs) or the CoolUP, a refrigerator that can store cold up to 16 hours without power supply. In addition, various water treatment systems can be integrated into the ImpactSite. They ensure that up to 2,000 l/h of potable water is purified. The so-called StreetUPs illuminate streets autonomously using a solar panel and an integrated battery. This is a huge added value for the villages. Because the lighting extends the day for the residents, the shops can open longer, people can spend more time outdoors in the evening and the lighting increases the sense of security of the residents. Adapted to local conditions and operation by solar power, these ImpactProducts form the link between electricity, services and people.

Africa GreenTec offers individually dimensioned rooftop or open-space solar systems for industrial customers with high power requirements such as hospitals, hotels and factories. This reliable and clean power supply gives companies the basis for sustainable economic growth.

With ImpactCities, the founders want to establish a holistic approach in large cities. With open-space solar parks and efficient battery storage, entire cities can be supplied with clean electricity. Each Solartainer® saves up to 70 tons of CO2 per year compared to conventional diesel generators, and the use of ImpactProducts multiplies this effect in the ImpactSites.

At eye level with the local people
Unlike NGOs, Africa GreenTec does not regard the local people as recipients of donations in need of help, but rather as responsible customers. The work and exchange with these customers always takes place at eye level. Only together can solutions be continuously developed and local needs be addressed in a truly sustainable manner. For the work in the village communities, an intensive awareness process was established from the beginning, for which employees with language and cultural knowledge from the respective region were hired. Furthermore, the safe and efficient use of electricity is explained to the users using various supporting media such as illustrations.

Value creation in sub-Saharan Africa
It is extremely important for the entire team to create as much value as possible in sub-Saharan Africa. For this reason, a country company with local employees is being set up in each country, and jobs are also being created directly in the villages around the plants. In the next step, production and administration will also be relocated to Africa. To this end, the new climate-neutral headquarters will be built at Dakar in Senegal over the next 3 years. This includes a complete production center where all products and solutions are produced completely on site. In addition, a training center for new employees, students and local education programs is currently being established to transfer even more knowledge to the continent.

A holistic approach
All described concepts and ImpactProducts of Africa GreenTec in combination are the basis for a holistic approach. In this way, rural areas can also be supplied with electricity, which in turn leads to a noticeable further development of the work. This has a valuable impact on the lives of villagers and pushes the self-reliant development of rural regions.
Figure 4 illustrates this approach using the example of a village. Additional information can be found in the explanatory video via the link in the QR code or on the YouTube channel of Africa GreenTec.

Support Africa GreenTec
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