The Solar Thermal Training & Demonstration Initiative

SOLTRAIN - Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative is a regional initiative on capacity building and demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region. It is funded by the Austrian Development Agency and co-funded by the Opec Fund for International Development. 

SOLTRAIN started in 2009, and is now in its third phase of cooperation with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

The aim of SOLTRAIN is to support the target countries in changing from a largely fossil energy supply system to a sustainable supply structure based on renewable energy in general, and on solar thermal in particular. 

The implementing agency of SOLTRAIN is AEE INTEC, an Austrian institute active in solar thermal energy research, training and demonstration. 

The local partners are the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa and the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the Namibian Energy Institute from Namibia, the Bethel Business and Community Development Centre from Lesotho, the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, Botswana University and the company Domestic Solar Heating in Zimbabwe. 

SOLTRAIN focuses on the four crucial areas:

Raising awareness of the potentials in solar thermal technology: by using targeted campaigns, relevant stakeholders and the public are made aware of the wide range of application areas for solar thermal systems. Awareness raising also includes showing the benefits of solar thermal systems concerning energy supply, poverty alleviation, job creation and the protection of the natural environment.

Building of competence in solar thermal technology: currently there are no centres of competence for solar thermal in the partner countries. SOLTRAIN will help to establish institutional structures which can offer expert advice, training and technical support to the local industry and politicians. Research and development capacities is also part of these centres.

Creating solar thermal technology platforms: similar to the European  technology platforms, these platforms include all key stakeholders and sectors that influence the general conditions of how to accelerate the dissemination and use of solar thermal systems. 

Demonstrating that solar thermal technology works: SOLTRAIN sets up solar thermal demonstration plants in order to apply the knowledge taught in the training programs to installers, students and politicians. Both smaller and bigger plants were set up in social institutions and small and medium enterprises, where they contribute to water heating, cooling and the generation of process heat.

SOLTRAIN II: Already Completed

From November 2012 until February 2016 the comprehensive work program of phase II of SOLTRAIN was implemented.  Several of the goals were overachieved. This is the result of an excellent co-operation of all involved project partners and the solar thermal industry of southern Africa. 

In total more than 1200 people were trained in solar thermal and 127 solar thermal demonstration systems were installed. With these systems 522 tons of CO2 are avoided annually and the avoided electricity cost corresponds to ZAR 3.5 million.

The overall goal of SOLTRAIN – Phase II was to contribute to the switch from a fossil fuel based energy supply to a sustainable energy supply system based on renewable energies in general, but based on solar thermal in particular. 

The overall project was carried out in the five southern African countries: Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

The activities were funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) via the ERP-Fund and co-funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID). 

The work, which was carried out in the project is summarized in the following: 

As lack of awareness was seen as one of the main obstacles to the broad implementation of renewable energy technologies in general, and of solar thermal ones in particular, comprehensive awareness activities were carried out. 

In order to inform stakeholders from industry, education, policy, administration, social institutions, and the financing sector, a total of 25 stakeholder workshops with 812 participants took place in the partner countries.

Other project activities to inform the general public about SOLTRAIN and the possibilities of using solar thermal energy were the participation in trade fairs, articles in newspapers  and journals as well as a number of radio and TV contributions.

In 2014 and 2015 BBCDC, the project partner from Lesotho received the prestigious Energy Globe Award for Lesotho. This raised not only the profile of BBCDC but also of SOLTRAIN activities on an international scale. 

Also the Eskom Eta Energy Efficiency Award was awarded on 4 December 2013 to Prof Dieter Holm from the South African project partner SESSA for the SOLTRAIN activities in the category for energy efficiency awareness.

Another important awareness raising activity was the participation at international conferences. Representatives from all SOLTRAIN partner organizations attended actively at the “International Conference on Solar Technology in Development Cooperation” in Frankfurt, Germany on 6 and 7 November 2014 and at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference (SAIREC 2015) from 4 – 7 October 2015 in Cape Town. 

Another main objective of SOLTRAIN Phase II was the establishment and implementation of “Solar Thermal Technology Platforms” (STTPs) into Centres of Competence in Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa.

The STTPs were founded by the main stakeholder groups in each country and they were implemented in Centres of Competence, which are hosted by institutions of higher education in each country. 

The formal integration of the CoCs into the host institutions (CRSES, UEM, NEI and SESSA) is proven by official confirmation letters of the host institutions.

During several stakeholder workshops the STTPs formulated solar thermal visions for 2030, discussed and passed Solar Thermal Technology Roadmaps and also elaborated by-laws for the Solar Thermal Technology Platforms. 

The Solar Thermal Technology Roadmaps (STTRMs) are now available as a guideline for policy to support and disseminate solar thermal technologies in the project partner countries. 

In Mozambique, the Solar Thermal Technology Roadmap is recognised by the Ministry for Science, Technology, Higher Education and Professional Training. In the other countries the process of endorsement is in progress.

One of the core activities of Phase II of the project were training courses. In total 24 train the trainer courses and training courses for vocational training centres as well as 39 dissemination courses with a total of 1212 participants were carried out.

Besides the training courses mentioned above also one training course for quality inspectors as well as two workshops for policy and administration were carried out in Lesotho. 

In South Africa and Namibia two workshops for financial institutions were carried out.

At the educational institutions (CoCs) a number of university level courses on renewable energy in general with a special focus on solar thermal energy for students were held over the project period as well.

In order to support the project partners with training equipment for future training courses the institutions were equipped with eight pumped solar thermal systems and seven thermosyphon systems. Ten of these systems have been installed on solar trailers.  Monitoring devices complete all of these systems.

At Stellenbosch University the upgrade of the collector test facility to European Standards was supported by SOLTRAIN so that commercial tests could be successfully performed at the beginning of 2016.

In order to apply the knowledge gained during the training courses, demonstration systems were installed in so called “Solar Thermal Flagship Districts” to show and demonstrate different solar thermal applications.

According to the project documents it was the goal to install about 75 solar thermal demonstration systems of different sizes and applications at social institutions as well as small and medium enterprises.

Due to the fact that the contributions of the beneficiaries and other donors to the demonstration systems were significantly higher than initially expected, it was possible to install 127 demonstration systems instead of the 75 systems.

The number of direct beneficiaries from these 127 solar thermal demonstration systems, can be estimated at 1 800. Taking into account the multiple uses in hospitals, schools, homes for elderly people and other social institutions, this amounts to about 5 000 people annually. 

The beneficiaries of a significant number of the installed systems are women (e.g.  a girls school in Zimbabwe, and maternity clinics in Lesotho and Mozambique) and marginalized groups like a residents of a sheltered employment centre, of a residential facility for adults with cerebral palsy, orphans, patients of a psychiatric hospital in Mozambique, and of two hospitals and two retirement villages. 

The annual solar yield of all solar thermal systems funded by ADA and OFID sources and installed in phase I and II of the SOLTRAIN project was 1 500 MWh. This corresponds to electricity savings of 1 650 MWh/a and 522 tons of avoided CO2. The avoided electricity cost corresponds to ZAR 3.5 million.

The total cost of all 127 demonstration systems (including installation) was € 903 641. The contribution of the SOLTRAIN project was € 281 468 or 31% and the contribution of the beneficiaries and funds from other donors were € 622 173, or 69%.

In order to increase the awareness, to show different solar thermal applications and to motivate the decision makers to support a broad market implementation, eight technical tours with 152 decision makers to the “Flag Ship Districts” were carried out.

SOLTRAIN III: Current Phase

According to the World Bank today some 25 countries in Sub-Sahara Africa are facing a crisis evidenced by rolling electricity blackouts. These shortcomings in the power sector threaten Africa’s long term economic growth and competitiveness. The cost to the economy of load-shedding is equivalent to 2.1 % of GDP on average. 

Solar Water Heating Systems for domestic uses but also for heating and cooling of hospitals, hotels, student hostels and also for providing heat for industrial processes could play a major role in reducing the stress on the security of electricity supply in the six partner countries Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. 

Due to these reasons all partner countries of SOLTRAIN, phase III are pursuing policies that enhance security of supply, energy conservation and increases energy access. Furthermore in all partner countries there are national plans and policies on the support to increase the use of solar thermal systems in place. Also on SADC level the increased use of renewable energies is seen as an essential topic and solar water heating systems are detected as one of the major technologies for demand side management.

Phase III of the project is therefore based on the national and regional governmental renewable energy targets as well as on the results and lessons learnt in the two previous phases of SOLTRAIN, which were carried out from 2008 – 2016. 

It is the aim of all measures taken in the project to anchor the results achieved in the previous phases in the partner institutions and in governmental bodies of the partner countries and to initiate or to strengthen sustainable national solar thermal roll-out programs, that shall stay in place far beyond the duration of the project.

The specific project purpose of SOLTRAIN- phase III is to strengthen the partner institutions and the governmental bodies of the partner countries in the implementation of their sustainable national solar thermal roll-out programs.

The project focuses on three main groups:

Local implementation partners: Educational and research institutions like universities, vocational schools and other training centres

Target groups: Installers of solar thermal systems but also policy, administration and the financial sector. This target group consists of about 750 participants of the different training courses. It is the aim to have of a gender balanced participation in the training courses.

Beneficiaries: Social institutions and other eligible entities such as small and medium enterprises, house owners, patients of hospitals, occupants of homes for elderly people, students of student hostels, guests of the accommodation sector (hotels, lodges), visitors of restaurants, “industrial processes”. 

In the call for applications for demonstration systems a special focus is going to be on institutions which support women (e.g. girls schools, maternity clinics, shelters for battered women) and marginalized groups.

It is estimated that about 7,000 persons will directly benefit from these demonstration systems by reducing their energy bills and by improving the hygienic standard.

Targeted indicators of the expected outputs

  • 12 Policy Workshops with 250 participants carried out
  • 500 persons trained in 22 training courses on design, installation and maintenance of solar thermal systems
  • 3 national Solar Thermal Roadmaps developed in stakeholder processes for Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe
  • 6 national Solar Thermal Roadmaps implemented in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe
  • 6 Solar thermal statistics (one per partner country) on the development of the solar thermal markets available
  • 70 Solar thermal demonstration systems installed, in operation and quality checked