The SolarTurtle is a solar kiosk designed for maximum security and maximum portability. These devices are housed in containers and assembled off site. They can be deployed by simply offloading the container and unfolding the panels towards the sun. These community-owned solar kiosks sell electricity “by the bottle”. This means that a recycled plastic bottle is halved and battery inserted, the lid is then converted into a 12V cigarette lighter socket, allowing communities to build and maintain their own battery packs. Micro-grid connections are offered additionally to power local schools and businesses. Delivered as turnkey plant by truck, this fold-away solar PV system provides basic electricity to 300 households and a local school and is stored safely preventing theft.

Whereas there are numerous solar power solutions, the main benefit of this plug-n-play solution solution is the security features, which are part of the product. All the components needed, for example, solar panels, batteries, charge controllers and consumer connections can be locked away. This is imperative in crime-ridden areas.

The name SolarKiosk is derived from the fact that these solar kiosks feed just like a turtle: Panels are removed from the container and unfolded in the morning hours when they are safe from theft and they can then “feed” from sunrays and are locked away in the hard shell of the container once it gets dark and crime rates rise. Selling electricity by the bottle means that a recycled plastic bottle is halved, a battery inserted, and the lid converted into a 12V cigarette lighter socket. This allows communities to build and maintain their own battery packs.

No on-site infrastructure or skills are required to set up and operate the system: Customers simply walk in and purchase a bottle of electricity which they can take home. This small power plant also serves as a shop where customers can buy energy-efficient devices such as lights, TV, radios, stoves etc. For customers needing more electricity, SolarTurtle sells home solar PV kits.

In South Africa and many other parts of Africa, crime is a major limiting factor in providing electricity to schools and rural settlements. With most photovoltaic panels stolen within a year, these schools are left with few resources as they cannot afford further electricity sources. In 2015, the South African government began an ICT program to further digital education. The aim is to minimize paper in classrooms and provide tablets to learners instead of textbooks. In this case, electricity is imperative.

Furthering economic development, solar power offers women entrepreneurs an opportunity to become micro-unities and provide an essential community service, SolarTurtles aims to empower women with this solution.

SolarTurtles is a franchise system and works by identifying a school recipient and linking it to a funder, i.e. local entrepreneur from the community. This local funder is to own and also manage the franchise. The “Turtlepreneur” is then trained to sell electricity and energy-efficient devices, and also encouraged to add his/her own ventures to the new electrified shop space. The production price has been set at 350,000 South African Rand and will be sold at 500,000 South African Rand

The system is currently being tested at a school in rural Transkei. With over 2,000 students living without electricity, the aim is to provide affordable electricity to serve them and community at large. Every morning learners bring their empty solar energy bottles to school and drop it at the container. After a day’s classes the learners pay R10 to collect their solar recharged bottles and take them home where they provide a versatile source of energy for lights, phones, radios and ICT devices. The school purchases power from the turtle though a prepaid meter installed in the SolarTurtle. With the funds generated from the school and the community, the “Turtlepreneur” earns a living and makes the business self-sustaining.

SolarTurtle is a Social Economic Development (SED) management company. The company offers to manage companies SED obligations and launch sustainable community electrification businesses with their funding. All new IPPs (independent power producers) that want to get PPA (power purchase agreements) from government must set aside around 5% of their profits for community upliftment.

The company locates and engages with schools and communities, and provides training and support. The financing for SED is used to start franchises. SolarTurtles earns a portion from the franchises’ energy and products sales, which allows them to continue monitoring and supporting the franchisees.

Requirements SolarTurtle:

  • Off-grid community (500 households min)
  • Available land
  • Local entrepreneurs
  • Good solar resources

Key Facts

Organization: SolarTurtle
Contact: James van der Walt, Charlene Barnes
Operating in: South Africa




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