SolarWorX, a Berlin-based off-grid solar firm, has raised seven-digit series A funding round from Canadian Solar Inc. to expand its product portfolio and sales activities in its overall push to electrify some of the 1.2 billion people that are still living without a stable grid connection especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Canadian Solar, as the lead investor, is joined by co-investors EIT InnoEnergy, one of the leading European investors in sustainable energy innovations, and DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, the German development finance institution.
According to Felix Boldt, CEO and founder of SolarWorX: “In sub-Saharan Africa alone, around 600 million people are detached from the opportunities that come with reliable access to power. Changing that requires more than just a well-engineered technical solar solution. In Africa, everything is defined by price. Our solution cuts out the need for technicians and can be customized to accommodate individual power demands and available budgets. This, combined with our approach to work with local distribution partners in those incredibly diverse markets is what sets us apart, and we are incredibly proud to have Canadian Solar, EIT InnoEnergy and DEG join us in our effort to bring clean energy to rural Africa.”
SolarWorX’s Solego, modular off-grid solar systems with 80Wh or 160Wh battery capacity can be stacked on top of each other and provide flexibility to power individual households, small businesses and entire communities. The systems also offer voice support in local languages such as English, French, Swahili, Wolof and Fula, and are compatible with all major pay-as-you-go platforms. Significant upside potential lies in SolarWorX’s upcoming smart DC grid solution called MESH, a hardware-agnostic system that allows users of Solego and other 12V solar battery systems to easily share PV powered electricity between 2 to 100 households and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). MESH will be deployed in the field at a pre-commercial stage by the second quarter of 2021.
SolarWorX’s existing key markets are Cameroon, Zambia and Nigeria, with South Africa as its base for selling to the sub-Saharan region. New targeted countries have a high proportion of citizens living off the grid, and thus represent a massive addressable market, which can benefit greatly from a large-scale rollout of affordable off-grid power systems.
“The electrification of sub-Saharan Africa represents one of the most important global challenges of our time, as well as one of the greatest business opportunities,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar, “Bringing clean, reliable power to those currently living off the grid will have a profound positive effect on the world as a whole. This investment reflects Canadian Solar’s commitment to contribute to social development as part of its broader sustainability strategy. We are excited to partner with SolarWorX and believe that, with our support, they can position themselves as a leading facilitator of this rollout.”
In May last year, Solarworx partnered Angaza to bring modular solar solutions to Africa. The firms brought Solarworx’s Solego 80/160 solar solutions to homes and businesses in off-and-weak-grid communities across Africa. The Solarworx Solego 80/160 were made compatible with Angaza’s Pay-As-You-Go technology, enabling incremental payment options for reliable solar lighting and appliances for household and productive use. The Solarworx Solego 80 and Solego 160 products can accommodate an 80Wh and 160Wh battery, respectively, as well as two 50W solar panels. They come with three or four LED lamps and a USB charging kit that operates with a USB C, Micro USB, Mini USB, or a round jack.
The Solarworx Solego 80 and Solego 160’s modularity enables the system to grow with the consumer’s increasing demands. Multiple 80Wh or 160Wh modules can be stacked on top of one another to increase the battery capacity, enabling a maximum load of 1000W per user or around 150W from a single device. Consumers can irrigate fields and supply clean water to livestock with a solar water pump, small businesses can offer chilled beverages with a fridge, barbershops can power their hair cutters, and consumers can utilize AC power tools off-grid with a power inverter. Solarworx appliances are sold separately for increased distributor flexibility, and include 1W-4W LED lamps, USB fans, a portable radio, security lighting, electric fencing, 24” and 32” TVs, and laptop chargers.
The Solego boxes and LED lamps come with a two-year warranty, five years on PV panels, and one year on all appliances. The Solarworx Solego 80/160 are currently available for distribution in ten countries across Africa, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
Canadian Solar’s strong network of suppliers, sales channels, and logistics on the African continent will help SolarWorX further reduce costs and establish itself as a viable solution to bring renewable off-grid power to where it is most needed.