Guest Post Author: Sonja Basson, Schneider Electric Solar Business, Southern Africa
Midrand, South Africa, December 9-12, 2014 – It is a reality that South Africa was and still is in the midst of an energy crisis. Our coal fired power plants are straining under the demand for supply. We had a harsh reminder of the fragility of our supply in December 2014 as the only way to keep the country from disaster was to implement rolling blackouts or locally known as load shedding. This meant scheduled power outages per suburb every day for up to 2-3 hours at a time, sometimes longer. The loss of revenue and implications for business is immense. So the spotlight was firmly on alternative energy solutions.
With great expectation we welcomed our colleagues from Spain, Canada and France to South Africa. The solar team consisting of Jose-Maria Delgado (Sales Application Engineering Manager), Roy Dyngen (Senior Technical Trainer) and Bruno Forzani (Commercial & Rooftop Sales Director E&A) arrived in Johannesburg to deliver a power packed few days of crucial commercial and rooftop solar training.
The training kicked off with a welcoming event on the Tuesday, which saw installers (system integrators) and business owners from across Southern Africa descending on our Schneider Electric Academy of Learning in Midrand to hear more about the commercial opportunities in Solar and for some to experience an introduction to our Solar offer. The auditorium was at full capacity as eager delegates waited their turn to have a one-on-one discussion with the team even after the session ended. It was also the first opportunity for many to see the CL three-phase string inverter for the first time as it was specially brought in for the training.
A strong contingency of 45 trainees attended Day 1 and 2 – the questions varied from novice to intermediate and expert level as the trainees got down to the details of the questions that they have been mulling over. Day 3 was reserved for advanced troubleshooting and questions which a further 22 delegates participated in. The true impact of the training can only be measured in the coming months, but the immediate feedback was that it was a success and that it has caused a buzz in the industry and helped to boost confidence in the product and support.
The training that took place was an essential step and installers welcomed the opportunity to attend. Since mid 2013, our local team has slowly built relationships with a network of forty installers across South Africa. These installers spent months in the field becoming familiar with the product, building experience with the TL, RL, SW and XW by commissioning systems of various sizes and complexities. Our products are now being installed across Southern Africa from places as far as Cape Town (1400km from Johannesburg), to our own city center, Johannesburg. One of our installers are preparing to complete the first 102kW XW+ system in a town called Ermelo (221km from Johannesburg) in the first quarter of 2015. We’ve made it through December but the question remains: will our utility cope as business picks up this January? The experience from December will certainly drive further sales and development this year.
Example: shopping center 400kWp rooftop project by an installer in Vosloorus, South Africa using TL 20’s