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Tesla's Powerwalls Help Zimbabwe's Energy Sector Stay Afloat Amid Extended Drought

by Claribelle Deveza November 18, 2019

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Zimbabwe industries have turned to solar panels and Tesla battery packs for backup electricity amid lengthy power outages. The electricity shortages are caused by the country’s persistent droughts, which has affected Zimbabwe’s hydropower production. Tesla’s backup batteries have provided Zimbabwe with the power it needs when solar panels can’t be used. 

Over the past year, Econet Global subsidiary Distributed Power Africa (DPA) has installed Tesla Powerwall batteries in 65 of its telecommunications towers across the country. In a recent statement to the World News Monitor, DPA CEO Divyajeet Mahajan noted that the Tesla batteries replaced the backup diesel generators they had been using before.

According to Man’arai Ndovorwi, a renewable energy engineer affiliated with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, renewable battery systems—like Tesla’s Powerwalls—are increasingly being favored over traditionally used diesel generators in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa because more countries in the region have chosen to rely on solar power.

The president of the Matabeleland chapter of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Shepherd Chawira, emphasized the importance of finding a reliable and more affordable source of backup power. He described the many factors that have resulted in power being too costly for Zimbabwe businesses. 

“[The] Industry [sector] is faced with crippling levels of insufficient energy, coupled by unsustainable power tariffs and inflation. These factors lead to increased costs of doing business, and this affects the output,” Chawira said. 

He also stated that no backup power options would force companies to scale down operation or, worse, close down, which would eventually lead to an increase in unemployment. Due to the extended droughts in Zimbabwe, many companies have had to rely on diesel generators for electricity, which is needed to conduct daily business transactions. This results in businesses feeling the strain as they try to keep their lights on amid the country's droughts. 

The lack of power has affected Zimbabwe’s economy since large amounts of the country’s monetary transactions pass through electronic systems, and mobile money is widely used. Econet, in particular, dominates the mobile money transactions with Ecocash, which holds 95 percent of the market share in Zimbabwe. According to Quartz, more than US$200 million worth of mobile cash passes through Zimbabwe’s electronic payment systems a day.

Mahajan said switching to solar panels and Tesla’s Powerwalls secures energy output for critical users like businesses. At US$6,500 per Powerwall unit, Tesla’s lithium-ion battery packs are practical for businesses, but are still too expensive for individual Zimbabwe households. However, Mahajan noted, the Powerwalls already installed could feed power back to the grid for homes. With such a system in place, even homes that do not have individual Powerwalls are still able to take advantage of the battery storage systems, at least to some degree. 




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