Rolf Kersten

Award Category: 
Venture Award Nominee

Project: Solar Container

Nominated by: Climate-KIC

Key words: Clean energy, affordable electricity, Africa
Project aim: To provide clean and affordable electricity to off-grid consumers and businesses in Africa
EIT Community connection: Part of the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme at the German Co-location Centre; second place in the European Climate-KIC Venture Competition 2015

The project

  • The idea: Mobile Solarkraftwerke Afrika builds mobile solar power plants for off-grid use, delivering clean and affordable electricity to rural communities, enabling local education and economic development. Our first container – crowdfunded by investors last year – is in operation in Mourdiah, Mali. Our second container, which was also crowdfunded, will be delivered this summer to Djoliba, Mali.
  • Inspiration: I visited Mali and saw that many communities don’t have access to electricity through a nationwide power grid. Electricity is often produced by noisy, dirty and expensive diesel generators, impeding local education (no lights in the evening) or commercial development (for example, the cooling of medicine).
  • USPs: We offer a “ready to run” container with panels, batteries and converters all built in. The solar power plant can be put into operation by a local team within hours, and can be moved if needed. We sell electricity to the community for a price comparable to diesel-generated electricity today, can repay our investors, make a margin for ourselves and still hand over the container to the community after 10 years. After that, electricity is produced almost for free – compared to a diesel price that’s only ever likely to be higher – and that production has a lower impact on the environment.
  • EIT Community support: We originally focused on organising funding, delivery and installation for our first container. At that time, we had a rough financial model, but no pitch deck or developed business plan that would enable us to talk to investors. The Climate-KIC Accelerator programme helped us to close this gap. Thanks to feedback from our coaches and peers, we delivered a pitch that won us the ticket to compete at the Climate-KIC Festival 2015, and created a more structured business plan. Through workshops in Germany and Finland, we developed relationships with Finnish colleagues and even signed a partnership with one fellow start-up. Finally, the funding we received allowed us to fine-tune our technology earlier than planned.

The nominee

  • The beginning: Since I completed my engineering degree in 1997, I’ve been passionate about renewable energy. In recent years the market has become more exciting; with clean electricity available at competitive prices and prices expected to fall further, lots of opportunities are opening up.
  • Entrepreneurial flair: For me, being an entrepreneur is about combining a vision that addresses social impact, technology advancements, clear customer focus and the ability to build and retain a great team.

More information