Innovative technology links three  solar power projects that GE is undertaking in Nigeria for the Tolaram Group.

Until recently, small-scale rooftop solar projects have been under-utilised  in the country, with diesel generators a far more  common source of primary energy supply to these locations. Now, advances in solar technology are making this clean energy more affordable.

The state of the art manufacturing facility is run by Dufil Prima Foods, a Tolaram subsidiary.

Since it was built in 2012, the  automated noodle factory has been a completely off-grid operation, powered by  its own diesel generators and drawing no electricity from the Nigerian grid.  GE Solar is installing a photovoltaic (solar PV) renewable energy plant, which will integrate with the existing diesel generating system for a 24/7 uninterrupted  power supply.

Adding this 382.8 kW  kilowatt solarhybrid system will reduce the rate of diesel  consumption at the plant site  thereby drastically reducing the customer’s opex, while also reducing  emissions from the diesel operation. GE expects the plant to achieve an annual 18% reduction in both costs and emissions.

Noodles are becoming an  increasingly popular food in Nigeria, and the factory is the largest noodle  producer in Africa.

“This installation is an example of what’s possible for solar technology on a smaller commercial scale,”  explained Jeff Wyatt, general manager of GE’s solar and energy storage  business when the solar hybrid system was contracted.

“In many regions where there is  no grid, or power from the utility grid is unreliable or expensive,  manufacturers need a reliable, integrated solution they can count on. The  economics of PV hybrid are attractive,” he said. As a result, companies are  able to take advantage of a sustainable long-term energy solution.

“Tolaram strives to be an early  adopter of advanced technology, and solar energy looks extremely promising. Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint and create sustainable industrial  growth,” Sajen Aswani, CEO of Tolaram Group, explained on the group’s LinkedIn page.

Two more Tolaram sites, in Lagos, received solar PV systems that can switch automatically between three power  sources – solar, diesel generator and grid electricity – to achieve maximum  fuel and cost savings.  These pilot sites, sponsored by GE Ventures Licensing, are  designed to test new business and technology models focused on small  commercial solar customers in Africa.

The electronic controller integrates an electric battery system that stores solar power during the day  for use at night, extending the use of solar power beyond daylight hours and  bringing about further savings.

The two installations are at the  Tolaram Group headquarters, incorporating a retail shop, in Lagos and at a  second retail shop in Rotimi. Adding a renewable energy power supply, with  battery power throughout the night, has been a huge boost as the area has  grid electricity for 12 hours a day or less.

The Lagos installation is capable of delivering 10kVA of continuous power, with a short term peak capability of  a high as 30kVA. The smaller installation at Rotimi can deliver 2kVA of  power, with a peak capability of 5kVA.

“These pilot plants have only been in operation since November 2015, and once we have completed our  assessments we will consider expanding the offering,” said Brian Selby of GE Ventures Licensing.

“It’s an exciting and innovative  design, making energy available around the clock from the least-cost energy  source. While the system intelligently uses electricity as and when available  from the grid or a fuel generator, it always prioritises the use or solar  electricity, be it directly from the sun or as stored in the battery,” he  said.

A further advantage is that the system does not require any technical training to operate. In addition, GE  can offer remote monitoring for data collection and analysis across the  installations.

GE recently renewed its “company to country” agreement with Nigeria for another five years. This is part of a  larger GE plan to invest $2 billion in Africa by 2018. That will help Nigeria  as it pushes to install 40 gigawatts (40 000MW) of additional power generating capacity by 2020.