A world first, Specialized Solar Systems completed the installation of a sub-centralized solar energy power station in conjunction with an innovative client in Cape Town, Solar Reach.  The installation was done on the outskirts of Cape Town in a suburb called Jabula where grid power is not available. It consists of a sub-centralized solar energy unit which is a solar energy producing station that supply’s remotely managed DC solar energy from a central point that will branch out to supply much needed solar energy to a further 9-11 house-holds.

Specialized Solar Systems utility-based solar management integrated solution will supply all the necessary tools in an easy to use, tiered-user, on-line framework for sustainable and remotely managed energy supply for the project. The integrated solution is used extensively in many off-grid solar electrification projects where remote system management and ground management rely on the real-time data with automated client billing, switching and comprehensive system management.


Utility-based solar energy management

Utility-based solar energy solution

The use of solar energy production as a primary mechanism for energy distribution for large-scale, diverse and non-grid electrified demographic coverage in Africa is the culmination of many years of product development by Specialized Solar Systems resulting in the formulation of an integrated solar energy supply solution.

A world first utility-based solar energy solution is now in its 4th year of operations. The platform provides all the correct management tools in an easy to use, tiered-user, online framework for sustainable remotely managed energy supply.
Utilty based solar energy management

Background - Situation analysis

The creation of electrical networks throughout the African continent is carefully governed by specific regulatory bodies. These regulatory bodies ensure a certain standard is maintained, keeping the equilibrium between social acceptance and service delivery. These standards have been developed over the last 100 years and has become the benchmark for any electrification, defining the protocol of implementation and ensuring viability.

Any new technology, which improves the concept of electrification, would need to conform to the level of operation as we know it today. We have seen the LED Revolution change the load pattern of most consumers throughout the world. This revolution, however, took place within the specified standards, maintaining the existing paradigm of installed electrification.

When the electrification of rural Africa is discussed, the first challenge is to address national standards of electrification and how a long-term strategy is implemented. The benchmark of evaluation will always relate to existing standards. The standards that have been designed for the purpose of maintaining effective distribution, is also the standard that will contribute to the argument that rural and peri-urban electrification will not or cannot be realised. This is due to the cost of a system, allocation of houses and social demographics. A good example of electrification without these standards is the illegal connection to the national grid in South Africa.

Through pure desperation the customers in peri-urban settlements have devised their own electrification protocol. Although this is illegal and can be dangerous, due to a lack of education on the principles of electrification, it does show that an acceptable customer standard can be achieved, within an acceptable cost parameter for various customers.

The various standards and installation regulations for electrification have been wholly focused on the delivery of alternating current and the potential kW draw or ampere available for the client. This determines the size of the generator and how the distribution network may be designed and installed.

The reality of the above has been discussed for many years, and although many countries have the full intention to deliver energy to all, the delivery of this electricity network is either simply not economically viable, or the lack of generation capacity places the priority of the peri-urban and rural people lower than industrial or commercial development.

It is therefore essential that a new set of standards be formulated, within acceptable parameters of the existing electrification paradigm, which will ensure the priority of rural and peri-urban informal settlement communities. This new set of standards would not necessarily be formulated by the energy design criteria, but rather by the customer’s basic needs, demands and luxury demands.

Through Specialized Solar Systems’ years of experience in providing electricity to those underserved by the national grid and the national electricity standards, as well as assistance from institutions such as the Stellenbosch University’s Sustainability Institute, the Vaal University of Technology and others, it has become evident that the following needs to be supplied to individual customers in order to meet the basic needs and demands of the customer.

Priority from 0-5 Rural and Peri-Urban Informal Settlements LSM1-3




Cellphone Charging















Internet Access



Cooking Facilities







*DSTV Satellite Receiver and Music System



Clothing Iron




* Large AC TV 36”, hairdryer, microwave, electric stove, etc.



To supply the above priority listing in the form of AC, one would need to allow for different kW ratings with diversity, leading to an energy system that will exceed the capital allowed for an effective business model.

The capital needed to generate 1kWh from a PV system with an AC output would vary between 650 USD and 714 USD. The minimum specification on the supply of the priority listing above would require 5A of 230V AC, which would have the potential to deliver 24kWh (without diversity) at a potential cost of between 15 600 USD and 17 136 USD. With diversity this figure could be reduced by up to 50%, however even with this it would still not be financially viable.

With the reduction of energy consumed in DC appliances and the limited availability of DC appliances, the load profile becomes more refined in relation to the priority listing. At present our customers’ load profiles vary between a maximum draw of 36W and 130W (fridge included), which is 5A AC consuming between 169Wh and 920Wh (fridge included) per day. It is apparent that, considering economic viability, this would be the only way to implement an electrification protocol for the poor.

Specialized Solar Systems standard formulation and supply design method

Domestic, Rural, Peri-urban and Informal sectrors


The customer generally does not understand the difference between the supply of DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current) energy. The customer’s only concern would be to have a sustainable supply of energy servicing his needs, demands and potential luxury demands. In keeping with the law of supply and demand, the customer is willing to pay for the fulfilment of these needs and demands.

This customer segment requires innovative payment methods, unlike the standard of paying for kWh used.

In evaluating the supply of DC against AC standards the two supply methods cannot be compared and will eliminate the ability to service this market in the DC format. Let us instead evaluate the supply of energy in the DC format, to the satisfaction of the willing paying customer, maintaining a service level ensuring sustainability, safety and efficiency.

The DC Supply Method

The supplier or distributor needs to know, understand and evaluate the generator which will be used. Once this has been achieved, the energy supplier will need to understand, monitor and evaluate the distribution and load profile of the customers. The supplier will need to decide on a capital value of the generator, in order to tabulate the distribution cost and calculate a return of investment via the demand for the energy supplied. This can be illustrated as follows:
jons diagram 1

The summary of a sustainable energy supply model for our customers would require us to understand the daily generation capacity of the PV generator (average throughout the year, PV panel inclination and timeframe of production), monitor this value and utilize this supply as effectively as possible. A sustainable model would also necessitate storing the required amount of energy, understanding the storage method, monitoring this storage and ensuring correct distribution between the PV generator and storage is maintained.

Contracting with individual customers, monitoring each individual customer (load profiling), while allowing the load profiling to balance with the total supplied energy (batteries and PV), will contribute to a sustainable electrification model.

Full control of this PV generator and distribution, would enable us to understand what energy potential we have and how much of that can be sold, at what price, and this process culminates in the creation of a business model.

Flexibility of the Business Model

To ensure this electrification model can be applied to all areas throughout the African continent, the generation and distribution can be summarized in the main categories represented as follows:

Decentralized Energy Generation and Distribution (model confirmed by SI 1000 units)

The Decentralized Energy System can be explained as when the energy is generated on the roof of the installed customer’s dwelling, stored in the same premises and managed remotely.

jons diagram 2

Sub-Centralized Energy Generation and Distribution

The Sub-Centralized Energy Generator and Distributor can supply a limited number of houses (3-14) with the generator located at a specific area, energy is stored in this unit, distributed from this unit to the customer. The maximum distance from the Sub-Centralized Unit to customer is 100m.

jons diagram 3

Model formulated in Jabula Township, Cape Town

Centralized Energy Generation and Distribution

Within the high density peri-urban and urban informal settlements, the Centralized Supply Unit will be able to generate and store energy at a central point. This unit can supply up to 40 houses with the needs and demands of the customer and will be managed remotely. The maximum distance from the Centralized Unit to customers is 200m.
jons diagram 3

To achieve a sustainable model the following benchmarks are needed.

►     To return the initial capital within a 5-year period.

►     To ensure a supply, distribution and generation period of 20 years.

►     To ensure an installed capital cost including all hardware for the need portfolio below 750 USD.

►     To design and manufacture all hardware for monitoring and customer management within this cost framework.

►     To design and formulate all software for:

  • Manual system control – PV and storage
  • Distribution and vendor management
  • Customer connection and management

►     To ensure all the above within the preset cost framework.

►     To ensure the correct transfer of skills within this cost parameter.

►     To ensure the correct ratio of employment and service management within this cost framework.

►     To supply community, communal street lighting, internet access, community interaction and support mechanisms.

►     To maintain a specific regulator standard for all installations.


►     The customer does not pay for energy, they pay for the ability to supply the different needs and demands as required.

►     The customer will have the option to select a payment package best suited to their needs.

►     Due to a lack of regulatory requirements in the distribution of LV DC, Specialized Solar Systems has formulated the framework ensuring safety and efficiency.

►     Due to a lack of cost-effective monitoring and remote management hardware, Specialized Solar Systems has had to develop all hardware in-house to manage all facets of the generation and distribution control.

►     As central control of management needs to be telematically controlled, SSS EPOWER was established as defined below.

Viability of Energy System

In order for the energy system to be considered viable, the energy provider would need to control:

►     The kWh generated from the PV generator remotely.

►     The kWh stored in the storage device.

►     The level at which this storage device is used.

►     The flow of energy to each individual customer.

►     The reserve or lack of reserve in the complete system.

►     The remote switching or programming of all these facets.

►     The inherent or internal consumption of the generator.

►     The management and control of the customer and flow of money from those customers.

An integrated management solution

The use of solar energy production as a primary mechanism for energy distribution for large-scale, diverse and non-grid electrified demographic coverage in Africa is the culmination of many years of product development by Specialized Solar Systems resulting in the formulation of an integrated solar energy supply solution.

A world first utility-based solar energy solution is now in its 4th year of operations. The platform provides all the correct management tools in an easy to use, tiered-user, online framework for sustainable remotely managed energy supply.

Utilty based solar energy management

The solution is used extensively in many off-grid electrification projects where remote management and ground operations rely on the real-time data for efficient client and system management.

Key features include:

  •     Solar system management with remote switching.
  •     User administration and management.
  •     A variety of automated billing options.
  •     Vendor payment facilitation and management.
  •     Stock control and system logistics.
  •     Advance security features.
  •     End-user interaction.
  •     Detailed reporting and systems overview.
  •     Audit trail: System and user logging.


SSS-EPOWER is a centralized web-driven framework built with PHP scripting that is accessible with any modern internet browser. The framework uses dedicated, secure and reliable cloud hosting services.

The framework has advanced user administration features and allows for the creation of individual system management clusters of solar energy service providers (utilities) for macro and micro solar energy management solutions.


Factory-built managed solar energy units are allocated to a defined solar energy service provider, whom then create and allocate these units to their individual sub-energy service providers(utilities) or outlets.

Payment packages or billing structures are then defined. The platform facilitates 3 different billing methods with remote system switching. The different switching states are either, ON (Green), WARNING (Orange) or OFF (Red). Switching happens when payment criteria are not met and can also be intervened manually, dependent on user administration rights. Ad-hoc debits and credits are also available.

The various billing options are:

  •     Contract billing: A defined value is debited on a certain day every month.
  •     Pay as you GO: Varied payment bundles (value = x days) are allocated to a PAYGO package.
  •     Pay to Own: A total value is divided by the number of months which is then offset by end-user payments.
Once customer information is captured the information is then allocated to the managed solar energy system for complete automation of the billing and switching functions.

sss epower quicksetup

POS or payment points are created and managed within the main framework through a vendor management module that uses a wallet fund system for managing the process. The vendor user application interfaces via an API into the main framework through an external URL for added security. Vendor outlets are normally located within the vicinity of the installed managed units. All vendor transactions happen in real-time.

The platform supports end-user registration that allows an end-user to log into their own dashboard via an API through any modern internet browser. This dashboard gives an overview of their system status, notifications, detailed account history, outstanding amounts, payment details for electronic funds transfers, energy supplier support information and any additional information.

The platform allows energy thresholds to be defined and set by management. For example: If a system is designed with a specification to deliver a maximum of 500 Watts of daily energy consumption, once this threshold is exceeded the system will automatically switch OFF, then reactivate in the new day (period). This allows the solar system to meet the longevity requirements within the original design specification.



Grid-tied energy solution now at the SSK garage and CO-OP in Krakeel

Specialized Solar Systems is proud to announce that the SSK Garage and co-op in Krakeel, in the Langkloof, now features a Grid-tied solar energy system with a 3 phase 5kVA Sunny TriPower SMA inverter and 20 x 250watt solar PV modules, supplementing their energy usage during sunlight hours with renewable energy.

These systems not only save the environment from substantial carbon emission reduction but are financially viable with many years of free electricity once paid off.

Some of the benefits grid-tied solar systems include:

  • Added insulation. Solar PV panels absorb heat thus reducing the need for cooling.
  • Substantial tax benefits - the capital spend on solar can be written off or depreciated over a year.
  • Increase the capital value at the installed location.

A grid-tie inverter is a power inverter that converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) with an ability to synchronize to interface with a utility line. Its applications are converting DC sources such as solar panels or small wind turbines into AC for tying with the grid.

Contact us to find out how you can save with renewable energy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Grid-interactive Hybrid 3KV 11-12kWhrs per day solar system

A Grid-interactive Hybrid 3KV 11-12kWhrs/day solar energy system with 530AH battery back-up for a farm outside of Swellendam, The Garden Route, South Africa.

Specialized Solar Systems is proudly the Solar appointed partner to Sentraal Suid Ko-operasie or SSK.  What Specialized Solar Systems provide is many different solar  energy and water pumping solutions to add value to the farming operations and help reduce energy consumption from the grid.


Sub-centralized solar energy power station complete

The second and final stage of the first Jabula sub-centralized off grid solar energy power station is now complete. This stage included six additional houses that were completely retrofitted for the supply of much-needed electrical energy. Our CEO,  Jonathan Hodgson was personally on site to assist with the challenge of laying the overhead DC cabling to each house and the complexities due to the informal building site layout and structures  - all done using poles and wired from the source installed street light (1).  

The installation was done on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa in a suburb called Jabula where grid power(Eskom) is not available and the locals have been waiting for up to 30 years for electricity. It consists of a sub-centralized solar energy station which is a remotely managed off-grid solar energy system that produces renewable energy at a central point that then feeds out to the surrounding households in the area.

off grid subcentralised Jabulane 17082016 - Jabula households (1-7) that are now supplied with renewable energy via a managed sub centralised off grid solar energy station (1) -

All installed units are automatically managed using Specialized Solar Systems utility-based solar energy management online framework, SSS-EPOWER. The households are billed for energy usage with Pay as you Go billing bundles and users have the convenience of paying for energy usage at their nearest local general dealer almost at the location.

Some of the key features of Specialized Solar Systems integrated solar energy management solution used for managing the project:

  •     Solar system management with remote switching.
  •     User administration and management.
  •     A variety of automated billing options.
  •     Vendor payment facilitation and management.
  •     Stock control with system logistics.
  •     Advance security features.
  •     End-user interaction.
  •     Detailed reporting and systems overview.
  •     Audit trail system and user logging.

 Video from the first stage of the sub-centralized solar installation done in Jabula, Cape Town, South Africa

At Specialized Solar Systems we are only in the beginning stages of an incredible journey – both humbling and exciting – to bring sustainable, renewable, affordable, off-grid solar energy into the estimated 600 million non-electrified homes in Africa [source: World Bank]: fast-tracking job creation, infrastructure, communication, water purification, education, entertainment, possibilities,  hope …and a better standard of living for all.

For more information about the sub-centralized energy systems please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.