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Cape Town’s rooftop solar boom achieves record levels

The rooftop solar installation at ABSA's HQ in Century City, Cape Town.

Cape Town’s rooftop solar boom is at record levels, with August 2023 seeing the highest ever solar PV applications as more Capetonians install solar PV and battery systems to avoid load shedding and to take advantage of the municipality’s incentives to pay cash for power generated by residents.

More than 1 500 small-scale embedded generation applications were received, according to the City of Cape Town, with a 50% increase compared to July 2023, the previous record-holding month of around 1 000 applications.

The City says it is working to shorten authorisation times by developing a forthcoming, easy-to-use online applications portal which is expected to drastically reduce turnaround times from the 1st of October 2023 whereby all SSEG systems will need a City-approved inverter and professional sign-off to be regarded as grid-tied. This is due to an increase in ‘fly-by-night’ operators offering systems of inferior quality, or which are not wired correctly.

Each new month has broken the solar PV applications record for four months straight since May 2023, with over 100 MW and counting of installed capacity in Cape Town. We are determined to make it more viable for households to go solar, with a cheaper AMI meter option to be rolled out early in the new year, alongside Cape Town’s cash for power incentives for households and businesses to sell their excess power to us,” says Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Enabling more rooftop solar forms part of our broader plans to add 1GW of independent power from various sources to Cape Town’s grid over time. The first 650MW is forecasted to come online by 2025/26 to protect against the first four stages of Eskom’s load-shedding, which will be achieved largely through a mix of Steenbras Hydro Plant; 500MW of dispatchable energy; and demand management programmes, including the forthcoming Power Heroes incentives for households to flatten peak usage.”

National legislation and regulations require the authorisation of all power generating systems connected to the electricity supply. Authorisation requirements have been around for almost a decade and the City says it continues to work to refine processes to the benefit of its customers.

From October 2023 all SSEG systems will need a City-approved inverter and professional sign off. Currently many systems using non-approved inverters are not wired correctly, posing risks to the safety and integrity of the network. This significantly slows down the registration process because there are too many different wiring configurations for the City professionals to consider. Reducing the wiring configurations speeds up the process.

To note: this applies to solar PV and battery systems connected into wiring of the building. It doesn’t apply to the trolley inverters for example that plug into wall sockets. These are regarded as electrical appliances.

Applications for standby and off-grid systems will not be accepted. Pre-October authorisations and applications will remain valid and be processed, but priority will be given to grid-tied systems using City-approved inverters.