BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Nigeria grows sales of solar products by 38% to 628,000 in one year

Africa’s biggest economy has recorded a 38percent growth in the sale of off-grid products to 628,000 in 2021, data sourced from a renewable energy report by REN21, a think tank, and a multistakeholder governance group focused on renewable energy policy shown.

According to REN21, Nigeria’s off-grid market is gaining strides through the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) which aims to electrify 300,000 households and 30,000 local enterprises through private sector-driven solar-hybrid mini-grids by 2023.

Apart from NEP, the report acknowledged the Nigerian market for off-grid solar products is coordinated by the Rural Electrification Agency, which aggregates various programmes including the Renewable Energy Fund (which delivered 6,805 solar home systems as of 2020), the Nigeria Electrification Project and Power Africa.

“As a result of these efforts, Nigeria recorded high sales (240,000 units) in 2021, with a significant increase in PAYGo sales. The country also is the largest market in West Africa for solar appliances, which grew 38percent in 2021 compared to the second half of 2020,” the report acknowledged.

The report noted that Nigeria is west Africa’s largest market of off-grid solar products with sales totaling 628,000.

“The West African market has shown strong, steady growth since 2019, with sales up 77percent between the first and second quarters of that year,” REN21’s report said.

The report showed Burkina Faso is West Africa’s second-largest market for off-grid solar products with 85,113 devices sold in 2021, followed by Benin with 71,240 devices and Senegal, which recently enforced a value-added tax (VAT) exemption on solar products.

“While these markets are in a growth phase, others in the region – including in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Ghana – are shrinking, with low demand,” the report noted.

In other African regions, REN21’s report said the largest market for Central Africa is Cameroon, with 430,358 off-grid solar products sold in 2021 while South Asia was the third largest market globally, with 869,833 off-grid solar products sold in 2021.

“India dominated the region with 785,711 devices sold, although sales were down 66percent compared to 2019,” report by REN21 said.

“Due to ongoing grid-connection efforts in the country, the Indian market is moving away from off-grid solar products to grid-connected products. East Asia and the Pacific have a modest market for off-grid solar, with 258,454 items sold in 2021, mainly in Papua New Guinea (111,616 devices) and the Philippines (86,891 devices).68 Sales in the region have quadrupled since 2019,” the report added.

The report observed that many mini-grids are owned by national utilities, whereas others are under private, community or hybrid ownership.

“Minigrid development traditionally has been driven by utilities and nongovernmental organisations, but in recent years private developers also have entered the space,” the report noted.

The report said there is no universally proven business model that works everywhere and is completely commercially viable without donor or public support.

“National governments have provided fiscal and regulatory support to the sector through VAT exemptions and policies, such as Kenya’s new mini-grid regulation in 2021,” the report explained.

How Europe’s heat wave makes solar panels less efficient

The record-breaking heat wave in Europe doesn’t mean record solar power generation, as extremely high temperatures actually reduce the efficiency of solar panels.

Read also: How two-wheeled EVs expand access to electricity in rural Nigeria

As temperatures in the UK hit the highest-ever on record at over 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) this week, solar power output hasn’t set records and is unlikely to do so amid very high temperatures, scientists say.

On Tuesday, a provisional temperature of 40.3 C (104.54 F) was recorded at Coningsby in the UK, the UK’s Met Office said, adding that it was the first time on record temperatures in the UK have exceeded 40°C.

However, power output during the heat wave has dropped below the levels that are typically reached during the spring when there is sunshine, but temperatures are cooler.

“It’s because of this balance between irradiance and temperature that the record for peak half-hourly generation is always in April or May, because that’s when we get sunny but relatively cool weather,” Jamie Taylor, a senior data scientist at Sheffield University, told the BBC.

While solar output has been relatively high in recent days, it hasn’t broken any records, according to trade association Solar Energy UK.

“The heat itself brings down the efficiency of solar panels slightly,” Solar Energy UK’s chief executive Chris Hewett told the BBC.

“So don’t expect to see records set,” Hewett added.

During very high temperatures, a very high number of the electrons on the solar panel are excited, which reduces the generated voltage and the panel’s efficiency.

Hot weather could reduce the efficiency of solar panels by between 10 percent and 25 percent, according to U.S. solar equipment distributor CED Greentech.

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but solar panel efficiency is affected negatively by temperature increases. Photovoltaic modules are tested at a temperature of 25 degrees C (STC) – about 77 degrees F., and depending on their installed location, heat can reduce output efficiency by 10-25%. As the temperature of the solar panel increases, its output current increases exponentially, while the voltage output is reduced linearly,” CED Greentech notes.

How they work

Solar panels absorb photons to energize electrons, causing them to flow and create electricity.

But when a panel heats up too much, its electrons are already in an excited state once sunlight is absorbed, reducing efficiency and the voltage it can generate.

Depending on where a solar panel is installed, high temperatures can reduce its electricity output efficiency by anywhere from 10% to 25%, according to CED Greentech, a leading solar panel equipment supplier in the U.S.

And with temperatures in Spain, Britain, and other European cities already surpassing 40°C or expected to hit that mark soon, solar energy’s output could soon take a hit, and Germany’s record-breaking solar power generation last week may end up as an outlier.

“Solar likes sunshine, but it doesn’t like being hot,” Alastair Buckley, a professor of organic electronics at the University of Sheffield, recently told the Daily Mail.

“We’re very unlikely to see any solar records broken this week—simply because it’s so hot and solar panels are less efficient in the heat,” he added.

Even solar panel providers have said that solar output could hit a ceiling as a result of high temperatures.

“The last few days have seen about 10% of Britain’s electricity come from solar. The heat itself, however, brings down the efficiency of the panels slightly, so we don’t expect to see records set,” Chris Hewett, chief executive at trade association Solar Energy UK, told Fortune.

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