If a political discourse is conducted in Germany on electricity supply, buzzwords such as “renewable energies”, “smart grid” or “storage systems” are often used. These terms are characterised by technological progress, because if an electricity grid has already been built up and established, further developments and optimisation measures follow. What is often not taken into account, however, is that 1.2 billion people on earth still live completely without access to electricity. Instead, fossil fuels such as diesel or kerosene are used – of course with considerable effects on nature and society. Our startup of the week, Solarworx, has therefore taken the initiative and is reacting to these problems. How? CEO Felix Boldt explains this to us in our interview.
Hello, Felix, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! We are pleased to learn more about Solarworx today. That’s why I start with the first question: How would you describe Solarworx in one sentence?
We offer innovative solar power solutions for 1.2 billion people without access to electricity.
A very social approach. Could you go into a little more detail? How is your solution technically structured, for example?
Our solar power solutions are aimed at people in sub-Saharan Africa who live far away from the public power grid. Our systems can be modularly expanded and speak to our customers in local languages like Swahili and Wolof. Individual systems can be interconnected to form a DC microgrid, allowing neighbors to share power and larger consumers to operate easily. Our products are IoT integrated and can be conveniently paid in installments via the customer’s mobile phone credit (PayGo). We use clean solar power, wood-based plastics for our product housings and innovative battery technologies that are not made of rare ressources.
You’ve just listed some of the aspects that make your technology and mission stand out. Do you create further added value?
We have used our many years of experience as founders in the off-grid solar sector to develop a unique solution tailored to our target markets. The systems can be used to operate household appliances (lamps, televisions, refrigerators) or support small local businesses without access to electricity. Compared to diesel generators and the connection to a power grid, we offer a cheaper and ecologically sustainable alternative.
The electricity produced by your systems is intended for the end consumer. Is your business model structured accordingly?
No, we are pursuing a different concept.Our experience has shown that vertically integrated B2C concepts with a regional focus are risky and prevent fast scaling. We therefore sell our products on a B2B basis to local distributors experienced in the target markets (currently West Africa). We also offer consulting services to distributors, NGOs and other international players.
In the beginning you talked about 1.2 billion people who currently live without access to electricity. What impact does such a lifestyle have?
Exactly, more than 1 billion of the world’s poorest people have no access to electricity. 600 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Most of them use fossil fuels, such as kerosene for light and diesel for generators. The lack of access to a clean and cost-effective electricity supply limits children’s educational opportunities, damages the health of families and offers only very limited opportunities to generate income.
You founded your company in 2018 and have already reached many milestones since then. Can you tell us more about it?
Since the end of 2018, we have tested our solar power systems in two pilot projects with a total of 250 systems in Senegal and Cameroon. The first commercial production started last year. In parallel, we have developed a microgrid module. We were able to secure a seed investment from InnoEnergy and various other grants. For our solar home systems we were awarded the “Digital Solar & Storage” award and qualified for the global final round of “Empower a billion lives” by IEEE. At the end of last year we took second place in the MakeItBetter Award.