In a presentation that drew considerably on those of an Apple product launch, Egypt off-grid solar power specialist Karmsolar announced new software and two deals on Thursday night.
In a darkened theatre CEO Ahmed Zahran forewent the black turtle neck in favour of a t-shirt, making his pitch on a stage naked of accoutrements with only a simple powerpoint presentation on the wall behind him.
Zahran unveiled an open source software management system for solar pumps tailored to the Egyptian sector, and partnerships with jewelry designer Azza Fahmy and investment bank EFG Hermes.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) system, combined with a physical unit housing essential hardware such as battery and inverter sockets, will allow off-grid agricultural water pumping systems to be managed more efficiently. The whole system is intended to allow non-engineers to design and run a solar pumping system.
It also reinforces the company’s focus on, and commitment to, Egypt. The software includes a patented algorithm of a Maximum Power Point Tracking, or MMPT, which was designed based on Egyptian needs and specifications. Tailoring an Egyptian-specific system could be a smart way to go as solar power Internet of Things (IoT) management systems abound overseas; German multinational Lorentz is one rival in a wide field.
“With projects like the 1.5 million feddan reclamation, and the reduction of subsidies on conventional energy sources, solar pumping will come in very high demand in the next three-five years,” Karmsolar cofounder and head of R&D Randa Fahmy said in a statement.
Business developer Hussein Fahmy said they did not yet have a timeline for marketing it to clients as the unit on display was the first prototype, finished after years of importing hardware and software components that weren’t a perfect fit for the company's needs.
“We went to modify the products already on the market and we found they were overdesigned or underdesigned [for our needs],” he told Wamda.
He said the Apple-style launch was a celebration of the four year long development timeline to bring the Variable Speed Drive Controller, as it’s called, to completion.
Karmsolar also announced a financing deal with EFG Hermes Leasing, the leasing arm of EFG Hermes. The deal will offer lease financing for solar energy projects in farms, factories and households in Egypt.
The commitment to financing should come as a relief to an industry reliant on cheap financing to beat subsidized gas-fueled power.
Alex Warren, managing director of Cairo-based business research firm Frontier Egypt, told Wamda in November that most startups relied on cheaper loans for project financing from organisations such as The Federation of Egyptian Industries’ sustainability arm, the Environmental Compliance Office (ECO).
With interest on bank loans at 15 percent and rising, the 2.5 percent ECO rate has helped many a solar energy project get off the ground.
Zahran said in a statement that the EGF Hermes deal was “the most aggressive financing scheme for solar stations in the Egyptian market”, which it may need to be as competitors such as the EBRD begin to eye the Egyptian private sector renewable energy financing market as well.
Jewelry to architecture
Karmsolar’s third announcement was a partnership with jewelry designer Azza Fahmy, who will be collaborating with the company’s construction arm Karmbuild on its Sahl Hasheesh headquarters.
Fahmy’s vision for the Red Sea Resort campus includes inspirations from Pharaonic, Roman and Nubian architecture.
Karmsolar is the only company in Egypt so far to sign a private solar power purchase agreement (PPAs) - it has three. It’s a trail others such as Future Energy Corporation are now trying to follow after problems around PPAs for the government feed-in-tariff program.
Feautre image of Karmsolar's Karmbuild Village.