Backlog indicates high demand for solar energy
Energy storage manufacturer Solar MD has a backlog of 14 MWh in terms of battery orders, and a backlog of 1 200 orders for the Logger V2, the company’s monitoring and control system.
“This demand speaks volumes to the critical renewable energy gap in South Africa, particularly with regard to intelligent energy storage solutions,” says Solar MD CEO Kaloyan Dimov.
He notes that the company can manufacture about 10 MWh a month and, therefore, he believes that the current backlog will be met within six to eight weeks, by which time, however a further increase in daily orders is expected.
Solar MD’s battery packs are available in the small 3.7 kWh packs and in the larger 1.2 MWh containerised solutions; both are being distributed in Southern Africa to countries such as Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The market is hungry for quality, locally produced battery solutions, with the assurance of online service support, manufacture warranties on batteries and a relatively short delivery lead time,” Dimov claims.
He tells Engineering News that the private commercial market for solar solutions is growing rapidly, particularly with regard to small and medium-sized commercial minigrid systems, rural electrification and field hospital electrification projects throughout Africa.
“State-owned power utility Eskom battles to keep the lights on, and this has led to an insatiable demand for our wall-mounted solutions or home storage solutions, predominantly for the residential market in Southern Africa,” Dimov explains.
Solar MD imports lithium-ion phosphate prismatic cells from Chinese lithium-ion battery manufacturers, such as China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology and Contemporary Amperex Technology, with which Solar MD has secured contracts for 200 MWh. These are then assembled into battery packs in South Africa.
Importing lithium-ion phosphate prismatic cells from China enables Solar MD to not only build battery packs that are suitable for local conditions but also size the battery packs to suit local customer use profiles.
The company offers various scalable and modular energy storage packages. These include wall-mounted lithium-ion residential or small business energy storage solutions, which vary from 2.7 kWh to 7.4 kWh; cabinet-mounted lithium-ion commercial and industrial energy storage solutions, which vary between 7.4 kWh and 22.2 kWh; and containerised minigrid solutions, which range between 103.6 kWh and 1.15 MWh. The containerised solutions combine diesel power with renewable energy to ensure grid stability.
Moreover, Dimov says local manufacture contributes to creating employment not only at Solar MD’s facilities but also in downstream industries, including sheet metal benders for casings, as well as manufacturers of electrical cables and associated accessories.
“We have faced challenges regarding the delay of imported raw materials since Covid-19. However, we have overcome these challenges by producing what we cannot import directly, especially with regard to smaller components,” he notes.
Despite the Covid-19 national lockdown last year, Solar MD managed to see this expanding, which Dimov attributes to employing a host of strategic software and machinery upgrades, as well as doubling its factory floor space from 2 250 m2 to 5 500 m2.
Two new laser-welding machines were also introduced, which have increased the daily output production to 800 kWh.
“Leading engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies in this sector are choosing Solar MD energy storage as a preferred solution – the most active in this field are solar solutions companies Ecotrades Solar Power Systems and Sustain Solar, achieving multiple MWh projects this year in the private commercial and minigrid sectors,” Dimov reveals.
A new in-house developed software has automated the entire production of Solar MD, says Dimov.
“Since our inception in 2014, we knew and understood that a focus on clean technology and the software behind the battery would ultimately create a world-class product.”
Dimov adds that Solar MD’s research and development teams are working constantly to improve the performance of the company’s products.
“Our software ensures that every aspect of the production chain is quality controlled so that there is little to no room for human error, and we are ultimately able to increase our output by 200%. We have also worked towards upskilling our workforce.”
In addition, Solar MD’s Logger V2, which is a robust communication device for residential and industrial monitoring and control, has been updated.
The Logger V2 is specifically designed to connect multiple energy devices and Solar MD storage products while providing records, data and events from third-party devices, inverters, energy meters and even weather stations.
The Logger V2 is powered by the company’s proprietary MyPower24 management software platform, which is solely designed to manage the hardware and software of energy devices and provide a system environment for various applications.