With dire warnings that load shedding – blackouts – will be a constant reality for South Africans for the foreseeable future, rooftop solar power for residences and businesses is seen as a feasible answer to our failing national grid. However, a lack of the requisite skills and knowledge is hampering many photovoltaic (PV) projects in the country.
“We have seen many companies entering the market recently, and it is quite clear that the relevant skills are lacking. Furthermore, the high demand for solar power – particularly residential – means that the lack of skills in the industry will not be bridged quickly.”
These are the words of Svilen Voychev, CEO of Valsa Trading.
Valsa has been in the solar manufacturing industry since 2009 and evolved from a solar photovoltaic (PV) mounting structure manufacturer and installers to a now being a fully-fledged turnkey solar product and solution provider.
Valsa’s solar products and solutions are based on their experience in the South African solar market – and it is this experience that Voychev says gives them an edge in the local solar PV industry skills, or lack thereof
Regulations are essential in ensuring that solar products are manufactured with quality and installed appropriately. The municipalities share the compliance oversight to ensure quality installations. “The insurance industry is very clear that they will only approve claims from professionally installed solar solutions” he warns.
Voychev notes that the lack of skills in the industry is a big challenge. “We are seeing a few initiatives to promote education, but the only way to bridge this gap is constant work with the sector to provide training and support. As such, Valsa has extending its services to make installation teams more knowledgeable. We support our partners with product and installation training to ensure skills improve and that compliance is understood, as ultimately the customer will benefit. Valsa provides free training courses to prospective installers to assist them in familiarizing themselves with the company’s products and services. This training is complimented by installation and maintenance manuals, engineering drawings, and specifications to aid installations.”
He notes that the SAPVIA (South African Photovoltaic Industry Association) sponsored PV GreenCard is a good start to ensure responsible and sustainable growth of the industry. The PV GreenCard is an as built report for the solar PV system owner and a checklist for the installer, which qualified installers provide to their clients on the completion of a project. The PV GreenCard contains details of the installation such as, what sort of PV modules and PV inverters were used, as well a checklist of all of the necessary installation steps that were completed.
For those considering switching to solar energy, Voychev recommends that they adopt a cautious approach. He suggests that potential buyers research their preferred installer, including verifying their credentials, their company history and ability to provide references. He warns against opting for the cheapest solution and instead suggests seeking reliable installers with a proven track record. “Be aware of what you’re investing in and conduct professional due diligence. The correct decision will undoubtedly pay off, and you will benefit from your investment.” Voychev concludes.