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SolarTurtle - Renewable Enterprise Development Across Africa

Thursday, 28 February 2019 06:28 Written by 
  • Location(s): South Africa
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Energy, Environment, Innovation, Rural Development, Small and Medium Enterprises, Solar Energy, Technology, Green Economy
  • SDG(s): 1. No poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 13. Climate Action
  • Types of ComSec Solutions: Solution
  • Locations of WGEO Solutions: South Africa
  • Type of WGEO Solution: Solution
  • Themes of WGEO Solutions: Energy, Environment, Innovation, Rural Development, Small and Medium Enterprises, Solar Energy, Technology, Green Economy
  • SDG(s) in WGEO Solutions: 1. No poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 13. Climate Action

Problem: Energy poverty is a huge problem across Africa and renewable energy has a part to play however there are challenges. In crime ridden areas across Africa traditional solar PV solutions have failed. The solar panels are typically stolen within a few months of deployment. The problem is so bad that the Gauteng provincial government was prepared to dismiss solar power as a possible electricity solution for schools and community centres.

Solution: Think of a Turtle moving around, and hiding in its shell when needed. Similarly, the SolarTurtle climbs out of its shell, moves to where the demand for energy is, and then feeds on the rays of the sun to supply the demand – quickly and securely. SolarTurtle has a range of solar energy platforms for community electrification with a special focus on schools. From our flag ship solar containers that fold-away by the press of a button (like a turtle into its shell), to light weight portable kiosks that fold-away and store in-doors for safety. These micro-franchises allow community members to become Turtlepreneurs and address energy poverty at the source of the problem. Our secure energy platforms can also be used for banking, clinics, disaster recovery, cold storage etc. Anywhere you need energy quickly and securely.

Goals and Objectives: The innovation designed for unparalleled security and maximum portability and targets poor and rural communities by introducing a unique solar battery charging station (AKA Solar energy kiosk). Furthermore, our software package manages our franchise and makes training and monitoring easy.

Implementation: The SolarTurtle is an innovation in the form of a micro “electricity dispenser” inspired by traders in Johannesburg who used shipping containers as safe trading spaces and women setting up flip-up kiosk outside schools to sell food and drinks to kids. The SolarTurtle kiosks house solar panels that fold out during the day and retract securely at night, charging powerbank batteries during the day. By using powerbank technology, the storage medium also becomes the distribution medium as customers swap out flat power banks for a full one and continue with their day.

These solar kiosks are assembled off-site then deployed by simply offloading the units and unfolding the panels towards the sun. A unique software package manages the training, monitoring and impact tracking of these small community enterprises

Achievements The Solar Turtle was announced the winner of the inaugural the 2018 Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge and the 2017 Inventors’ Garage competition.

  1. Stellenbosch Idea Competition winner, 2013
  2. WWF Climate Solver accolade, 2014
  3. Siemens, empowering people award winner, 2016
  4. SEED Award for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development winner, 2016
  5. Africa Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering short listed, 2017
  6. Africa Utility Week, Most Innovative Technology of the Year winner, 2017
  7. SA Innovation Summit, Inventors Garage Award winner, 2017
  8. SAB Social Innovation Award, Grant winner, 2017
  9. Design foundation, Design With Purpose Award, 2017
  10. Chivas the Venture award, finalist, 2018
  11. Nation Builder award (Mergon group), winner, 2018


  1. Energy poverty – reliable energy source anywhere in the country without delay
  2. Environmental crisis – green source of energy will be used
  3. Unemployment crisis – electricity creates direct and indirect employment. Indirect employment relate to local enterprises like sewing and crafting that becomes viable due to electricity
  4. Education – learners have lights and can charge their phones and school ICT devices
  5. Robust and secure – solar systems will no longer be vandalised
  6. Affordable clean energy – No need for paraffin lamps releasing harmful smoke and no fire hazard
  7. Women empowerment – We aim to train and recruit women to operate the turtles. If you want to take a care of a country take care of its caregivers
  8. Skills transfer – Not only will the women be renewable energy experts after the training, but the value of entrepreneurship will be instilled. The idea is to change South Africa’s culture to a more proactive one
  9. Localisation – use local skills and products in assembling SolarTurtles

Impact to date:

  • European Commission – R1200k ($86k)
    • Renewable Energy for Women Empowerment Project (REWEP)
    • Deployment of 10 energy kiosks in rural Lesotho (2018-2019)
  • Royal Academy of Engineering - R320k ($25k), Research Grant
    • Develop automatic fold away system for future drop-and-go solar containers
    • Pilot for Home of Compassion, Delft, Cape Town, June 2018
    • Power for community centre and HIV clinic
    • Collaboration with Liverpool university, mechanical design
  • SolarTurtle Pilot (4kW system)
    • Deployed at rural school in Elliotdale, SA (Jun 2015)
    • Funded by SANEDI, TIA, Stellenbosch University
    • Already self sustaining and employing 3 people
  • Technology demo (2kW system)
    • Deployed at rural school in Cofimvaba, SA (Nov 2015)
    • Funded by Department of Science and Technology, Stellenbosch University
    • Powering the school with a special focus on ICT (power for e-learning tablets)
  • School power Gauteng
    • New retractable design for powering a school in high crime area
    • Feb 2016 for Palm ridge extension 9, SA.
    • Funded by EnergyNet UK
  • Nedbank solar banking branch (4kW system)
    • Design and build a bank branch using SolarTurtle technology
    • Deployed in rural Eastern Cape, SA (Sep 2017)


South African National Energy Development Institute


$1,2mil scale-up funding needed to establish HQs in Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries.

Contact details: Head Office
Address:  Mountain Whisper, Church Str, Kylemore, Stellenbosch

Contact person: James van der Walt
Phone: +27 82 478 2478
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact person: Lungelwa Tyali
Phone: +27723219070
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 6032 times Last modified on Sunday, 10 March 2019 10:38
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