CIGS thin film solar plant in East London, South Africa

Black Lite Energy, a small black owned firm, has launched a daring R2bn venture into renewable energy in a project that sets out to deliver a major solar panel manufacturing facility in the Eastern Cape.

Backed by well known black economic empowerment (BEE) consultant, Ajay Lalu, Black Lite Energy has teamed up with a German solar technology specialist Manz AG to explore establishment of a CIGS thin film solar plant in East London. The two are conducting a feasibility study to establish the facility in East London. The project is also backed by the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and is expected to create in excess of 1000 jobs.

Black Lite Energy venture comes to take advantage of South Africa’s drive to dilute the country’s dependency on coal fired power generation technology and move towards a mix which emphasizes environmentally friendly technologies. Renewable energy sources have been emphasised as the way of the future and solar energy has been touted as one of the most viable options.

In pursuance of this strategy government has made it clear that it wants to facilitate meaningful BEE. Black Lite Energy seems to be ahead of the curve in coming in as a principal partner and not waiting to piggy bag on initiatives undertaken by established players.

Lalu said Black Lite Energy decided to go with an exclusive partnership with Manz AG after a two years exploration of technologies available around the world. He said the 25 years old Manz listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange had superior CIGS thin film technology with distinct advantages for Africa when compared to traditional PV technologies like crystalline or amorphous silicone.

“It generates more energy in higher temperatures and even generates energy on rainy or cloudy days,” said Lalu.

He added that Black Lite Energy has completed a pre-feasibility and a detailed business plan which enabled the group to secure funding commitments from the IDC and the NEF.

NEF’s head of Strategic Projects Fund Zwelibanzi Sapula said: “This is what South Africa needs, black industrialists who will enter the renewable energy industry, not merely as passive participants in the Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme but black industrialists who are involved in the main stream production of complete panels. This will create jobs, stimulate local content and allow black participation in the entire value chain. We are proud to be associated with a project of this nature,” said Sapula.

Lalu added that the NEF was a logical partner as they approach funding in a creative ways. “They do not just provide cash, they are your partner, a partner with a soul,” said Lalu.

Dieter Manz, the founder and CEO of Manz AG said: “We are encouraged by the scale of renewable energy developments in South Africa and believe that the rest of the continent of Africa will follow what South Africa is doing.”

He said Brics countries were key markets for Manz and Black Lite Energy was a natural choice as they have shown a depth of understanding of the technology.

“We are also pleased to be supporting the South African Governments’ initiative on black economic empowerment.”

Lalu said Black Lite Energy was hoping to complete the feasibility study in the next three months and will thereafter embark on full capital raising exercise.

“This project will create thousands of high quality jobs in the Eastern Cape, which is part of our empowerment ethos. We have a commitment from Manz to train mainly black women in their actual production facility during the commissioning phase of our plant.” 


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