Clean energy provider SustainSolar and mini-grid developer Equatorial Power join forces for another solar mini-grid on Idjwi Island, DRC

Despite the challenges of covid-19 lockdown, SustainSolar, an Africa-focused solar photovoltaic (PV) off-grid system integrator and provider of turn-key solutions for rural electrification, recently started working on a containerized off-grid solar-battery power systems to be delivered to Idjwi Island on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Equatorial Power, a Uganda-based mini-grid developer that has pioneered off-grid electrification and productive use in the region, already owns and operates a solar mini-grid on Idjwi island since 2019 which serves over 304 households and small businesses. With the new mini-grid development about 30 km from the first site, Equatorial Power will connect an industrial hub and supplementary systems to support growth of agricultural value chains on Idjwi Island; including industrial park ice, local shop refrigerators, egg incubation and juice making with over 20 new connections  at the South of the island.

Equatorial Power chose a Sustain Compact™ due to SustainSolar’s turn-key offering including door-to-door logistics to site with installation and commissioning. “SustainSolar’s plug’n’play solution significantly reduces the operational complexity around sourcing and installing the power generation unit. This leaves our team with more time to focus on the distribution and metering infrastructure and serving customers earlier than usual”, says Abishek Bharadwaj, Chief Technical Officer of Equatorial Power.  

The Sustain Compact™ is a 20-foot rugged container, equipped with SMA solar and battery inverters and SolarMD batteries with an initial capacity of 29.7 kWp PV and 88.8 kWh Lithium-Ion battery storage. The equipment is all pre-installed and tested, ready for commissioning on-site within a matter of hours. The mounting structure components to be installed on top of the container and in two ground-mounted panel arrays are included inside the container together with the solar modules, tools, cables and everything else, required to install the system within 2-3 days from arrival.

John Fadiran, Project Engineer at SustainSolar says, “We are excited to support Equatorial Power on this exciting project on Idjwi Island which has a number of challenges waiting for us. Even under normal non-covid circumstances, managing the shipping of a 20 ft container onto an island in Eastern Congo are a demanding task. In the current situation, as we are facing a few more stumbling blocks with a minimum of five border crossings, we will focus even more on managing our delivery task.” 

With 4 systems deployed across the continent to this date, SustainSolar’s standardized approach competes with traditional step-by-step solar system installation, which often takes longer, requires more complex project management and comes with higher implementation and budget risks. Serving a wide range of needs including rural electrification, C&I, off-grid and mobile rapid deployment, SustainSolar is proud to offer developers a service offering that reduces their implementation risk and alleviates any operational hassles such as sourcing, logistics and commissioning.

Tobias Hobbach, SustainSolar’s Managing Director further highlighted, “We see ourselves as a trusted partner of mini-grid developers like Equatorial Power and our aim is to help them get the electrification job done, faster and limiting their headaches so that they can focus on developing more projects and refining business models…. while we take care of design, build and delivery of a standardized solar power generation package”.

And Riccardo Ridolfi, Equatorial Power’s CEO to add, “We are glad to work with SustainSolar for this complex project at such a difficult time. SustainSolar is a reliable and trusted equipment integrator, which could become a great partner for mini-grid roll-out in the region. We have already signed for another mini-grid system in Uganda, which is a very innovative project and will be announced shortly”.   After completing 3 projects across South Sudan and Malawi and another 2 projects in the pipeline in DRC & Uganda, SustainSolar is now looking in expanding its scope to West Africa with a focus on French-speaking countries.