Bulawayo solar energy dealers profit from ZESA power outages

BULAWAYO – Bulawayo shops trading on renewable energy gadgets such as solar panels have reported a boon in sales past few days as business owners try to profit from the current power outages.

The ongoing power crisis has seen businesses and households go for up to 18 hours a day without the crucial energy resource.

Amid the crisis with no signs of a solution in the near future, some residents in the country’s second largest city have turned to the most common source of renewable energy to try and beat load shedding by power utility, ZESA.

A recent survey conducted by ZimLive in the Bulawayo Central Business District indicated an upsurge in the uptake of solar power systems by home owners.

“We have witnessed an increase in sales of solar panels, inverters, and batteries in the past few weeks.

“Our largest market for solar used to be businesses. Now we are noticing a shift as clients enquire about household use.

“In a day, we have about 30 enquiries or so. Clients want to understand how it works and the costs; then they come back when they get the money,” said a sales representative at Electrical Sales.

Metro Build and Home Sales representative Tafadzwa Mashanda said solar energy is expensive to many ordinary Zimbabweans struggling to survive but was quick to admit it has become a necessary resource under the circumstances.

“Purchasing and instalment of solar power systems can be viewed by others as costly but that’s a once-off sacrifice for a long-term investment,” he said.

Mashanda said clients used to just buy solar powered lights but have now increased their portfolio of solar gadgets to panels and inverters.

“Now they are upgrading to stronger systems that support the whole household. Solar was a backup plan but now it seems to be a needed alternative,” he said.

A sales representative at Halsted Builders Express who preferred anonymity said demand for solar power systems was becoming higher.

“During the festive season, we always record high sales for solar panels, especially from our clients in rural areas.

“This time around, we have seen many clients purchasing solar power systems due to load shedding,” he said.

According to research by ZimLive, a 1kilovolt (kva) solar system ranged from US$1,000 to US$1,200. This powers 4 lights, a television, WIFI, and a decoder.

A 5kva system ranged from US$3,200 to US$3,400 and was able to support – all at the same time – 16 lights, television sets, a decoder, WI-FI router, one radio, refrigerator and 1 High-Pressure borehole pump.

Prices for solar flood lights were pegged at US$30 for 20W, US$35 for 40W, US$45 for 60W, US$55 for 100W, US$65 for 200W and US$120 for 300W.

Zimbabwean authorities say power crisis in the country have largely been a result of low water levels at the Kariba hydro plant.

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