At the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum in Kigali hosted by GOGLA, we officially announced the world's first automated production for off-grid solar panels. The line produces solar modules 60% more efficient. In-line quality control ensures consistent output. Automation makes the solar modules highly cost-effective without compromising on quality, and further increases the affordability and reliability of off-grid modules. The power ranges from 2,5 to 20 watts and the panels are customized for an ideal fit to the customer specific system. The production can scale up to 200.000 modules per month with this line.
As a pioneer in the off-grid solar market, we are constantly striving to develop the market further. For Energy Access, this means cost-efficient and reliable products. With a track record of 10 years and more than 10 million produced modules, we use our unique industry experience to continuously improve products and also production processes. The off-grid solar segment is still underserved in the photovoltaic market and production equipment is not available on the shelf. The production of off-grid solar modules accounts for only 1% of the global photovoltaic industry. The largest solar companies are not operating in this sector. Therefore, we develop automated processes and production equipment by ourselves.
Field trips improve the design of off-grid solar panels
In Kigali, Rwanda at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum, we can connect again with the off-grid solar community. The constant feedback with the industry and the opportunity to meet again in person helps keep this industry prospering. GOGLA – the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry – provides the ideal platform with the exhibition and conference.
We also take the opportunity to go on several field trips to see how our products are used in rural areas. Together with other GOGLA members, we visit several families who use solar home systems. Solar panels should be cost-effectively produced but they also should come with a fast and easy mounting solution or if necessary, with a frame that improves self-cleaning to reduces the dust on the panel. Potentially cables need to be changed but the junction box design still needs to have be waterproof and IP64-rated. Visits to end users always give us fresh ideas to develop the products that are needed.
Off-grid solar plays a vital role for energy access
As the cheapest available source of electricity generation, solar energy fulfills an important function in providing energy access. 2 billion people still do not have access to (reliable) electricity. Solar energy is not only a clean energy source that does not harm the planet with CO2 emissions. It also makes it possible to leapfrog certain technology steps. When electricity is generated decentrally, it is not necessary to build an extensive power grid.
Modern energy is essential for human well-being and a country’s economic performance. Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting, heating, cooking as well for the provision of clean water, sanitation, and health services, or transportation and telecommunications services. While more than one billion people worldwide have achieved access to electricity in the last decade, the financial impact of COVID has made basic electricity unaffordable for an additional 30 million people, most of them in Africa. The global number of people without access remained largely unchanged between 2019 and 2021, after increasing by an average of 9% annually between 2015 and 2019. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without access increased in 2020 for the first time since 2013.
The Global Off-Grid Solar Forum aims to accelerate the development of the off-grid solar market contributing to achieving universal energy access by 2030.
Reliable solar panels on a large scale
Despite rapid growth in demand for off-grid solar modules, specialized companies like OPES Solutions are essential for driving this segment towards a commodity market.
The automated production line improves part accuracy, resulting in less material waste. Yield improved by 20%. The biggest challenge is to design the production line so that it can accommodate the various customer specific products, remain flexible and be easy to change. To achieve full automation, new solutions must be implemented in production, but also at the product level. To protect the achievements of our engineers these process steps and components are patented.
Instead of manually connecting several soldering points on bussing ribbons, we developed a new automated step and introduced a new component to replace manual soldered points. This enables automation in the first place. Also, the junction box is soldered in a different way because normally ribbons that are connected in the junction box can’t be handled in automation. With the new component it can be soldered in an innovative way.
To ensure that our solar modules improve people’s lives without unnecessarily burdening the environment or the people involved in their production, we focus on environmental and social governance. We implemented a sustainability concept with a long-term vision to continuously improve our performance. Our production is ISO 45001 certified, we have signed ETI standards and offer lead-free soldering options. We keep pushing forward in our ESG efforts with internal and external audits.