Gustav Radloff is the representative of the German photovoltaic company SUNfarming in South Africa and took part in the German Training Week (GTW) in 2019 of the project development program of the energy export initiative on project development in Botswana. In the interview, he reports on his experience and the added value of GTW for his company.
The German Training Weeks (GTWs) are multi-day training courses for energy experts in developing and emerging countries. The aim is to provide local energy experts from business and administration with the right tools for the successful development of high-quality renewable energy projects. German companies have the opportunity to participate as practical trainers.
What was your impression of the German Training Week in Botswana?
It was the first time that I participated in such an event. For me personally it was very helpful to get a good understanding of what the Botswana market looks like. Thanks to such a format, it is possible to get an idea of a country much faster and to see everything from the right perspective than if you tried it alone. This is where a group of crucial people, even from the Ministry of Energy, come together in one place and give important insights. If you come to the country alone, it is difficult to know who to meet, for example.
Was this your first time in Botswana?
No, I've been to Botswana several times because it borders South Africa and I work here. However, it is difficult to know what is really happening within a country in terms of specific regulations and their details, especially in the field of renewable energies. Some of the things we learned this week were a surprise for many participants.
What experience have you had with the Energy Export Initiative? Would you recommend participation to other companies?
It makes a lot of sense to take part in an event organized by the Energy Export Initiative because, among other things, a good way is to get to know many of the relevant actors in a particular country. Project development is interesting for us because we are project developers ourselves. We have found that it is very difficult in Africa to develop projects with good and strong local partners. We wanted to understand what is being done to support the development of project development skills in each country. I believe that this is a major obstacle to large-scale implementation and faster introduction of renewable energies. In our experience, the partners we could find have no understanding of the big picture that would be needed to develop a project. It is therefore good that the Energy Export Initiative offers a project development training program for these partners.
To what extent was participation in the GTW worthwhile for SUNfarming?
We were already talking to some people in Botswana and also some government people who were very interested. But now we understand much better what are the real goals or the steps we have to take if we want to achieve something. And we don't need several months of our own working time to find out what I now know about the specific technical, economic and legal situation in Botswana.
Would you take part in a German Training Week again, for example in a different context or in a different country?
Even in countries where we have more networks and more knowledge, such an event is definitely worth attending again. People often make the mistake of thinking that if you do business in Africa, you do business in Africa. Few companies understand that each country is really unique. So if you do something in Botswana - even though it is only the neighboring country - it is completely different than doing something in Namibia, it is completely different than doing it in Zimbabwe ... So I think that such an event is really helpful to provide additional perspectives to develop.
After several months of preparation, SUNfarming signed a PPA with the Togolese state on Thursday, January 16, 2020, for over 50 MWp Food & Energy plants. Installed on 2 x 50 hectares of land, the systems, in addition to supplying energy, are intended to help up to 50,000 people in the region receive training in the area of organic vegetable and egg production in the next 10 years. In addition, technicians are trained for the solar sector and the basics of electromobility are taught. Like in all other African countries, SUNfarming strives to actively involve GIZ and or KfW / DEG.
The SUNfarming Food & Energy facility will be the starting signal for a program to promote rural structural development in Togo. The partner in Togo is the CCIT (Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie du Togo, part of the Ministre du Commerce. It is responsible for the training and operation of the Food & Energy plants, under the guidance of SUNfarming. German storage and processing technologies in the field of vegetables and egg processing are as much part of the overall project as the production planning of e.g. tomato juice and ketchup to attract additional investors in these areas.
The SUNfarming Food & Energy concept can make a significant contribution to the success of the "Development Program in Rural Areas" planned by the Togolese government. In addition to a qualified workforce, this project also provides national and international investors with the energy they need to operate the processing plants that are to be built on site.
(Foto left to right:
Vice President CCIT Remie Moevi, President CCIT Germain Méba, Marc Bidamon, Energy Minister Togo, Peter Schrum, SUNfarming, Tiem Bolidja, Energy Ministry responsible for EE, Prinz Lorenzo Koageh Director SUNfarming Togo, Kossi Amétépé, CCIT 2. Vice President GLE.)
Before the laying of the foundation stone, Rt. Hon.Gen. (Rtd.) Moses Ali visited our Food & Energy Training Center at the North-West University in Potchefstroom in South Africa to see with his own eyes. The Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Energy of Uganda already visited us in November 2019 and reported to the Prime Minister. The delegation consisted of the family members of Hon Gen (Rt) Mosis Ali and Prince Kimbugwe.
After the Food & Energy visit we went to CFAM and introduced our partner in food processing.
The Prime Minister was very pleased about our technology and wants to have Food & Energy for Uganda.
An extract from our project proposal to the government of Uganda
The aim is that both the local partners and SUNfarming define the most suitable program for trainings. However, we would like to suggest the following program, as a start:
Module 1: Basic Knowledge Renewable Energy
Module 2: Design and installation of Photovoltaics systems
Module 3: Economic efficiency models for Photovoltaics systems
Module 4: Battery systems
Module 5: E-mobility
Module 6: Food & Energy - plants, greenhouse and free field systems
Module 7: Food & Energy- irrigation, fertilization, control, monitoring
Module 8: Operation, maintenance, monitoring systems.
SUNfarming will realize the first trainings under the Train-The-Trainer principle. Where the local trainers will be responsible to organize and continue with further trainings under the supervision of SUNfarming.
With Food & Energy, SUNfarming will establish a platform to develop several activities, where research is very important as the PV modules create a special environment under them that may not be suitable for some crops. Therefore, the main purpose of the research activities is to determine the most suitable crop for the local Food & Energy system and, in general, how to optimize agricultural production without compromising electricity production. Students that are carrying out their thesis or research groups can use the Food & Energy systems for experimentation and local professors would lead the research activities.
As in previous years, SUNfarming donates to Christmas for a non-profit organization. Through our Food & Energy project in Madagascar, we were made aware of the children's aid project "Clair de Lune" by our local partners. 70 orphans or children from penniless families from 1 to 6 years of age are looked after by 3 employees every day and receive one hot meal a day - sometimes the only meal. SUNfarming will support this project in 2020 with a regular, monthly donation. For this year's Christmas on December 18, the SUNfarmer and their families spontaneously collected and with the amount transferred, Christmas became a festival of joy for these children too.
In this spirit, we wish you and your families a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Health, happiness and much success for the New Year - combined with our heartfelt thanks for your trust!
With festive greetings
Your SUNfarming Team
Mr. Benito A. Ferreiras Rector of ISA was the first speaker to highlight the benefits of the SUNfarming Food & Energy Training Center for the Dominican Republic. Mr. Peter Schrum, founder and main shareholder of the SUNfarming Group, presented the Food & Energy Concept. The German Ambassador Dr. Volker Pellet emphasized how advantageous the technology transfer operated by SUNfarming is for the Dominican Republic. The Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Germany, Ms. Maibé Sánchez Caminero, confirmed the advantages of the cooperation between the Dominican Republic and Germany using the example of this project.
The numerous guests included many high-ranking employees from the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture, the CNE (National Energy Commission), the CDEEE (Dominican State Holding of Energy Companies) and also the Director of GIZ in the Dominican Republic, Mr. Clemens Findeisen, was among the guests.
“It was a successful event with an interested specialist audience, who followed the lectures with great interest. It is not an exaggeration to say, that the Food & Energy concept among all those present, is classified as a very positive contribution to the development of the Dominican Republic. Afterwards there was a conversation with the Vice President CDEEE Lic. Rubén Jiménez Bichara, ”explains Holger Schönherr SUNfarming project manager.
(photo f.l.t.r: Peter Schrum, SUNfarming Founder and Main Shareholder, Lic. Rubén Jiménez Bichara, Vicepresident CDEEE, Ambassador Dr. Volker Pellet, Clemens Findeisen, GIZ)
The two individual transactions are an extension of an existing line and an interim financing for the acquisition and installation of a dedicated portfolio, which has been implemented with a new partner.
EUR 12 million will be used to finance the construction of 17 MWp of new photovoltaic projects in Poland, which have already been awarded a contract from the 2018 auction and are to be built and connected to the grid by April 2020. An existing funding line was increased from EUR 20 million to EUR 25 million. This now revolving credit line is available to the SUNfarming Group for approx. 3 years and is an essential building block for the realization of new projects and thus for further growth in Poland.
"With the conclusion of these two new facilities, we want to continue our growth after a successful year in 2018 and significantly increase our Polish portfolio to at least 150 MWp over the next two years", says Martin Tauschke, Managing Director and co-shareholder of the SUNfarming Group.
The Polish government recently extended the completion deadline for projects from the 2018 auction to November 2020, which has increased the likelihood of realization of many projects. In addition, a further PV auction will take place in December 2019 with a tender volume of 750 MW of solar capacity. According to current statistics, about 1 GWp is installed in the Polish market, of which about 500 MW are outdoor projects in the auction.
With 46 MW of projects already installed and after completion of projects under construction, SUNfarming has a market share of nearly 10% of realized auction projects in Poland.